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fytmll Stafrmtig ptag 




Hour it W, Sage 


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3 1924 092 530 546 

Cornell University 

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'3f ang tbere be wbicb are Desirous to be strangers fit 
tbeir owne sotle, ano forratners in tbeir owne Gitie, tbeg 
mag so continue, ano tberein flatter tbemselves. ffor 
sucb lifte 3 bave not written tbese lines nor taken tbese 

paines.' — Camden. 









& fHatrti&ooft of Ertsfj $re=<a:fjristiatt Eralitttons 



Author of 

Pagan Ireland* The Lake Dwellings of Ireland 

The Ruae Stone Monuments of Ireland {Co. Sltgo and the Island of Achlll) 

History of Sltgo, County and Town (3 vols.) 

Sligo and the Enniskilleners 

Wity gtitnwnrtts gllustraiiims 


VOL. I. 







Printed at the 

By Ponsonby & Weldrick 



Eo tfje JHemorg of 

JHg Jlotfter 


A sarcastic writer lately advised authors treating on Irish 
subjects not to omit commencing their essays from the starting 
point of the Biblical Deluge, so that no fact, direct or collateral, 
in the matter under consideration, might escape notice. Critics 
do not, as a rule, confine themselves between too narrow limits, 
but the above recommendation, though good in its way, does not 
give a wide enough field to work on, at least when Ancient Erin 
itself is in question. The liberty, therefore, is taken of ignoring 
the well-meant advice, of exceeding the prescribed limit, and the 
subject is opened somewhere in the early Glacial, or perhaps in 
the Tertiary period. The writer has, in fact, placed himself in 
the unenviable position of the advocate who, opening his speech 
with the sentence, " Before the birth of the world," was cut 
short by the Judge who exclaimed, " Do you not think that we 
might pass on to the Deluge? " 

Many Continental writers throw back the origin of man to 
even geologically distant ages, but evidences of this early 
existence of our race rest on such fragile proofs that they ar«, 
for the present, regarded with scientific scepticism by most 
English authorities. On this subject the late Professor Huxley 
observes, that " evidence has been adduced in favour of man's 
existence in the Pliocene or even in the Miocene epoch. It does 
not satisfy me ; but I have no reason to doubt that the fact may 
be so, nevertheless." 

Speculations on the Great Ice Age would also, at first sight, 


seem to have little connection with primitive religion. The con- 
sideration of the subject has, nevertheless, an important bearing 
upon the antiquity of man in the British Isles ; for as almost 
all parts of the world, save these Islands, have been suggested 
as the cradle of the human race, man must necessarily have been 
some time in existence, and must have acquired some faint 
religious ideas, before he found a home on these, at that time, 
icebound shores. Thus it is sought to conduct the reader through 
ages so vast that, if they were represented in figures, it would 
probably only confuse the imagination. All we can say is that 
it is a tale of progress, slow but sure, which began at the first 
appearance of life, and will probably continue until time shall be 
no more. 

To work one's way behind the scenes of the prehistoric 
past is, undoubtedly, most interesting. Not only are the results 
obtained of great importance, but the mere process of searching 
for facts, and then putting them together into a consistent whole, 
is a continual source of pleasure and excitement ; so that an 
attempt to pierce the mist which envelops the past, and to 
review, to the best of our present knowledge, the primitive faiths 
of the Eld, needs no excuse, nor preface, for a preface is but a 
more or less lengthened excuse. 

Christianity is generally supposed to have annihilated 
heathenism in Ireland. In reality it merely smoothed over and 
swallowed its victim, and the contour of its prey, as in the case of 
the boa-constrictor, can be distinctly traced under the glistening 
colours of its beautiful skin. Paganism still exists, it is merely 
inside instead of outside. In a previous work entitled " Pagan 
Ireland," the writer attempted to draw a picture of the early 
civilization of the country, from an archaeological standpoint, by 
analysis of existing material evidence of long-past life ; in the 
present work the same subject is approached from a folklore 
point of view, by the aid of legend and tradition. These two 
aspects of the question, viz., those of archreology and folklore, 
blend the one into the other, so that it is almost unnecessary to 


explain that, in many places, the same ground has to be traversed. 
To avoid repetition, when this occurs, the text has been con- 
densed, re-arranged, and re-written, so that it will doubtless be 
regarded by readers of "Pagan Ireland," even at these points of 
junction, as an almost new work. 

Like a dissolving view, traditional folklore is passing away 
before the eyes of the present generation. It was clear and 
strong in the days of our fathers, and there is hardly a legend or 
superstition narrated in the following pages for the currency of 
which, amongst the peasantry, our grandfathers would not have 

The interest taken in Irish folklore is a comparatively new 
phase of modern inquiry, but so much information has been 
already garnered, that it is almost an impossible task to compress 
an outline of the subject within the limits of a book of moderate 
size. The study of folklore, greeted at first with contempt, has, 
by the inevitable reaction which its acceptance into the ranks of 
science occasioned, given birth to numerous extravagant and ill- 
considered theories, for its study gives great scope to the imagin- 
ation. But the latitude granted to the imagination should not 
be based on mere guess-work, but on ascertained facts. 

' ' Im Auslegen seyd f risch und munter ! 
Legt ihr's nicht aus, so legt was unter." 

A writer should carefully follow Goethe's advice as given in 
the first line, and as carefully shun adopting that given in the 
second line. A few of our folklore theories are at present merely 
tentative, for no very definite assertion can yet be made with 
regard to some points in the analysis of Irish traditional lore. 
It has been remarked that, in this branch of investigation, a 
theory to stand unchallenged must be more than clear ; it must 
be not only in harmony with and explain facts known at the 
time it is enunciated, but it must also be in harmony with 
and explain new facts as they are brought, one by one, to the 


light of day, or else it must give place to a new theory which 
fulfils these requirements. 

Every new investigation clears some point from obscurity ; it 
is hoped that this attempt may clear up many. The opinions 
expressed in the text are the individual views of the writer; 
should the reader not agree with them he can form views of his 
own, and he may, perhaps, in some instances, arrive at more 
accurate conclusions than those set forth in the following pages. 
But though minor theories may be subject to modification, it is 
hoped that the main deductions are sufficiently well founded to 
make them incontrovertible. 

The idea of giving authorities in foot-notes was abandoned 
for two reasons : it seemed too pedantic, and the work would 
have expanded into inconvenient bulk ; but a compromise is 
made, and books and papers consulted are enumerated, in a 
Bibliography, at the end of the second volume. 

Many changes in the arrangements of the subjects treated of, 
suggested by literary friends who kindly looked over the proofs, 
have been carried out ; but if every recommendation had been 
adopted the writer would have found himself in the position of 
the man in the fable, who listening to and adopting all the advice 
tendered by onlookers, finally destroyed his property, for, "he 
labours in vain who tries to please everybody." The writer's 
object has been simply to discharge the useful but humble r6U 
of presenting to the general reading public, in condensed form 
and in popular shape, the many sides of a great subject. Such a 
treatment should interest those who have neither time nor oppor- 
tunity to study, in more complete archseological and folklore 
treatises and papers, each special branch of the great whole ; for 
the fields of Irish archaeological research are now so many, of 
such vast extent, the workers therein are so numerous, and have 
left behind them such voluminous records of their labours, that 
a specialist has but little time to afford himself a general view of 
what is going on around him. And yet all branches of archreo- 


logical research are so interdependent, that it is impossible to 
understand even one branch thoroughly without a sound know- 
ledge of the entire series. 

The present work has been also undertaken with the object of 
showing that a great literary opening lies ready at hand for a 
writer capable of rising to the occasion, and of doing for Irish 
archaeology what a Prescott and a Motley have done for History 
at large. The author wishes he could make the story as fasci- 
nating to his readers as it is to himself, but he thought it was 
better to have it told roughly than not told at all. Should 
therefore the following pages be considered dull reading, the 
failure must be attributed to want of skill rather than lack of 
interesting material in the subject under review, which may be 
designated the Eomance of Religion in Ireland. An outline of 
its development, together with a description of its stereotyped 
customs and ceremonies — relics of the ancient world, still holding 
their position amid the din and bustle of modern civilization — is 
here presented. 

The writer cannot conclude without returning thanks to the 
public in general for the manner in which his previous work — 
"Pagan Ireland"— was received, as well as to his numerous 
critics, in particular, for their favourable and friendly criticism. 
In the general purport of these notices there is indeed but one 
statement to which he must take exception. Several reviewers 
appear to consider that archseological remains throw a mere side- 
light on the history of Ancient Erin. Now the study of Irish 
Archffiology is no mere side-light, and folk-lore is a most impor- 
tant branch of Archaeology. Archreology is the light, and the 
only light, in which so-called "ancient history" must be judged 
by dispassionate modern criticism. If the archaeological theories 
of the present day are based on well established facts, it follows 
that the reputed records of Ireland, prior to the date of the intro- 
duction of Christianity, must, of necessity, be adjudged to be 
mere emanations from the inner consciousness of comparatively 
modern writers. 


It should be stated that the greater portion of Chapters I. 
and II., Volume II., appeared in the pages of the " Ulster 
Journal of Archaeology," and are reprinted by kind permission 
of the Editor, Mr. F. J. Bigger, m.e.i.a. 

Cleveragh, Sligo, 

September, 1901. 




Speculative Geological Archeology, .... 1 

Ancient Fauna and their Exteeminatoe, . . .31 

Early Man, 78 

Man as Author, Artist, Sculptor, . . . .126 

Some Archs:ological Problems, , . . . .171 

The Borderland of History, . 200 




Advent of St. Patrick — Side-lights on Paganism, . 244 

Ideas Regarding the Dead, ...... 285 

Gods, Goddesses, Ghosts and Goblins, . . . 341 

Additional Notes 384 

Index, 389 


Figure Page 

ideal landscape off the north coast of ireland in the 
teutiary period, ..... Frontispiece. 
























ICE AGE, 60 






ICE AGE, .....••••• 









LITHIC TYPE, ......... 





LAND, ........ 





35 GRAIN-RUBBER, ........ 










ROOF, .... 





















10 s 


Ficure Page 


WORN, 110 




47 "THE IUISH MUMMY," 112 





51 " WILD IRISHMAN," 114 



BOOKS, 115 










PERIOD, .......... 173 


THE GIANT'S STONE, ........ 175 









MARKED > • -I* 

vol. i, b 


Figure Page 

68 chart by the french geographer royal, 1634, on which the 

island op erasil is marked, . . . . . . 215 

69 sketch map, showing the approximate position of the por- 

cupine and rockhall banks with regard to ireland, . 216 

70 present appearance presented by lough eyes and its arti- 

ficial islets, 222 

71 former appearance presented by lough eyes and its arti- 

ficial islets. an attempted restoration of the ancient 
settlement, . . . 223 

72 the burning of a cluster of lake-dwellings. restoration 

of the ancient single-piece war canoe in the science 

and art museum, dublin, ....... 224 

73 hibeunia surrounded with the principal products of the 

kingdom. title-page of sir james ware's " de hibernia 

et antiquitatibus ejus disquisitiones," .... 227 








ABOUT THE YEAR 1850, ..... 241 




STONE OF THE FIRE, " .... o-v; 













Figure Page 

89 bied's-ete tibw op the cashel of dos conok, . . 317 

90 rathkeltain, a large earthen fort near downp atrick , . 319 

91 ideal restoration of a rath, 320 

92 the challenge to the ordeal, 324 

93 THE KEEN, 326 








Page 12, line 7, for "of the bulls and of the stags" read"oi bulls and of stags". 
81, ,, 36, for '' embued" read "imbued''. 

107, ,, 5, for "World Afagazine" read "Wide World Magazine". 
132, ,, 31, for "have "read "had". 
164, ,, 2, for " gether " read "together". 
322, ,, 5,/oc"itis" read"are". 




The unknown impressive and imposing — The Glacial Period — Earliest move- 
ment of the Ice Sheet a subject of controversy — The Ice Age divided by- 
some geologists into three distinct epochs, each of prolonged duration : 
First ice Age, Inter- Glacial Epoch, Last Ice Age — Quaternary animals — 
Cave-men, Flint Implements of the gravel —Immense duration of time 
covered by the Old Stone Age— Quaternary Continent — Its gradual curtail- 
ment — Its Forests, Flora, and Fauna — Primeval Race — No recognizable 
Crania found in Ireland — Later Period — Two distinct Races of Immigrants 
— One race fair, the other dark — Extreme types of Crania — Abrasion of the 
Teeth — The entire enigma of the past still invites solution. 

The unknown is always both impressive and imposing. With 
regard to the past of ancient Erin, no skilful writer yet has 
arisen to lift the veil and show us the far-off days, and to depict 
the many hordes of immigrants fighting for and appropriating 
the country. Whatever they were, let it be hoped that under 
the influence of patient study they may be made, at least in 
imagination, to live again, but at present, at the very best, the 
process represents only a groping after truth. 

Although civilized man is, in some respects, different from, 
and an improvement on, the Eude Stone Age, and even on the 
Polished Stone Age savage, yet that difference arises, not only 
from inheritance, but also from the continual impress of his every- 
day surroundings. Place a present-day infant back in the Tiude 
Stone Age, and his offspring would doubtless grow up little, if 


anything, better than their fellows. Merged in their environment, 
the intellectual enlargement of their descendants would keep pace 
with, but would not outstrip, at any rate to any appreciable degree, 
the improvement of the masses which appear ever to attain, slowly 
but surely, a higher level. Although general appearance and 
features may, in many instances, bear strong evidence as to 
parentage, yet constitution of mind and bent of thought are 
determined and directed by environment. The Khalif Ali, the 
son-in-law of Mohammed, is credited with the profoundly philo- 
sophical remark that " Men are more like the times they live in 
than they are like their fathers." 

One school of modern evolutionists attributes the existence 
and continuance of the Universe to some unknowable mystery of 
which it is impossible to assert that it takes any special heed of 
the existence of man. According to the other school, the evidence 
producible almost compels belief in a supreme and intelligent 
Being, who has created all things with a definite purpose. 
Some of the Eoman poets formed a rough working sketch of evo- 
lution ; but this classic philosophy was a mere speculative idea, a 
fancy picture of development, not based upon observation of facts, 
but wholly evolved out of their author's own inner consciousness. 
It was a happy guess at the truth, but nothing more. It is not 
thus that discoveries of the truth are made which revolutionise 
the train of human thought. He who would build his theory for 
all time must first make sure of his foundation. Nevertheless 
we find " the same ideas, the same speculations, the same plays 
of fancy, reproduced generation after generation, with modifica- 
tions peculiar to the time, as though they were living descendants 
of original ideas which were brought into being before the dawn 
of history." 

Unless it be unreservedly accepted that the first human being 
was created an adult with mature intellect and possessing an 
innate knowledge of multitudinous subjects, and that his partner 
originated in an even more remarkable manner, a supposition 
to which archeology, or indeed any other science lends no con- 
firmation, the inquirer can but begin at the beginning, and draw 
inferences only from such realistic data as are at present forth- 
coming. There is much to be learned, even from what are 
apparently the simplest things, in the study of archeology ; and 
when an outside inquirer asks questions, 'it is astonishing how 
little is known on the subject, even by otherwise well informed 
persons. An account of the correction "of mistakes would furnish 
much amusing matter. Few archaeologists, to say nothing of the 
general public, have any idea of the extent to which opinions 
within the last few years, have become almost imperceptibly 
modified in many important departments of archivoWical 


science ; whilst there have been many recantations of opinions 
occasioned and enforced by the deductions drawn from great 
discoveries. The valet of Beau Brummel threw down a bundle 
of his master's cravats, exclaiming: "These are our failures." 
An archaeological writer may say the same of his fellow -workers' 
discredited theories. 

We are astonished at the magnitude of the results of geological 
changes in the older epochs of the history of the Earth's crust, 
and imagine that they were the product of a time when natural 
causes were far more powerful than they are at present, but in 
so doing we ignore the fact that those now operating, atmospheric 
influences, and the wear and tear of rivers and oceans of the 
present day, are producing, little by little, changes on the Earth's 
surface, the total sum of which will one day be as great as any 
which occurred in the past. Although there is irresistible evi- 
dence of distinct ages there is, in truth, no real distinction, no 
line of fixed demarcation, for one period glides into the next as 
imperceptibly as an old year is followed by the new — 

" There rolls the deep where grew the tree, 
Earth, what changes thou hast seen ? 
There where the long street roars hath been 
The silence of the central sea ! " 

It is a curious fact that along various parts of the shores of 
Lough Neagh fragments of fossil wood are frequently found. 
From its appearance the peasants arrived at the conclusion 
that the wood was originally holly, and further that the process 
of petrifaction took exactly seven years. Not long ago fragments 
of this fossil-timber were fabricated into whetstones, and vended 
about with the cry : — 

" Lough Neagh hones, Lough Neagh hones ! 
You put them in sticks, you take them out stones ! " 

However, the conversion of these articles from wood into 
stone must be transferred from modern to far distant geological 
times, as they are found in Post-Pliocene Clay, to which they 
have been transferred after silicification, probably by the action of 
ice, from their original position in older beds. The cypress 
of which the fossilized remains are found was a tall and stately 
tree, towering to a great height, conical in outline, and the 
quantity of these petrified fragments show how largely the 
Tertiary forests of Antrim were composed of this class of timber. 
Ireland in those days enjoyed a climate almost tropical in 
character. Conifera, resembling the immense trees of California, 
covered the slopes of the Antrim highlands ; as to age, geological 


experts differ as to the precise era to which they should be 
assigned : they go back, at any rate, to days when gigantic and 
unshapely monsters crashed through the weird forests of the 
Tertiary Age. 

' ' Yes, where the huntsman winds his matin horn, 

And the crouched hare beneath the covert trembles ; 

Where shepherds tend their flocks, and grow their corn ; 
Where fashion in our gay Parade assembles — 

Wild horses, deer, and elephants have strayed, 
Treading beneath their feet old Ocean's races." 

In the present day it is difficult to imagine, when surveying 
a quiet fertile valley or a green undulating ridge, that in the 
past, when Ireland was above water, its surface was, in places, 
scarred with volcanoes, or to picture volcanic activity throughout 
the vast period of geological time down to the middle of the 
Tertiary Period, when the fissure-like eruptions of the basalt dis- 
tricts of the North poured out intrusive lavas which now form 
part of the surface of our land, and furnish soil to stimulate 

A glance at the accompanying map (fig. 1) shows how the 
North-western Highlands of Scotland, together with an area 
extending southwards and embracing a portion of Ulster, were 
a centre from which radiated movements, which, in many 
instances, appear to have totally changed the south-king region. 
When once formed, these highlands have, as a whole, ever after 
held a relatively elevated position, and in the subsequent sinking 
of the area, some peaks were never completely submerged. 

It requires a great fund of reconstructive imagination to 
conjure up to the mind's eye, this immense region of volcanic 
activity, this mass of lofty and probably snow-capped cones 
towering into the clouds, every cone pouring forth floods of 
liquid lava, like so many Vesuviuses, over the then land-united 
Great Britain and Ireland. We speak of the Eternal hills, when 
many of these ancient mountains have been planed down to 
mere table-lands, and it is quite within the bounds of possibility 
that some remote ancestor of man witnessed the transformation 
scene, saw fire reigning apparently supreme, to be in turn 
conquered by water. 

The succeeding Glacial Period, in the European area, has 
been divided by some geologists into three distinct epochs each of 
prolonged duration. The transition from one set of conditions to 
another was gradual and slow, and at the culminating points of 
each period climatic conditions and the relative proportions of 
land and ocean were very dissimilar. The earliest movements of 
the ice-sheet are a subject of controversy ; the later movements 

THE TER 77 A R 1 ' PER70D. 5 

are more or less distinctly marked, but there is still much 
obscurity over the entire subject. The difficulty is further 
complicated by observers arriving at different conclusions after 
a careful study of the same phenomena. A writer on the Ice 

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Fig. 1. 
Map showing area of volcanic action in Gre;it Britain and Ireland during part of the 
Tertiary Period. (From Professor Edward Hull's "Physical History of the 
British Isles.") -*o ^ '^^^Z'\ 

Age is, therefore, on very debatable ground ; probably no two 
men would treat the subject from the same standpoint: and 
a geologist, who good-naturedly looked over the proofs of this 


chapter, enigmatically observed : " I think your way is as good 
as anybody else's, which is all one can aim at ! " "I think so " 
is the whole residuum which can be found after evaporating the 
" prodigious pretensions" of the present-day school of " the great 
Ice Age" geology. 

In the first epoch, during which the climate was Arctic, the 
European continent stood at the greatest elevation it ever 
attained. The land in general, and all the mountain ranges, 
were much higher than at present, whilst Great Britain and 
Ireland formed part of the Continent ; they were also connected 
with northern Africa, by low lying land or desert tracts, of 
which the Sahara now alone remains ; the straits of Gibraltar 
were closed, and an isthmus, of which Sicily and Malta are 
vestiges, divided the Mediterranean into two lakes or inland 
seas ; further eastward the European area was severed, by water, 
of which the Caspian is a remnant, from the major portion of 
Asia, with which it is at present connected. According to the best 
evidence now procurable man did not appear in Ireland before 
this great Glacial Age; but it is highly probable that, as the 
outcome of steady research, man's antiquity will be dated much 
further back. In this Period, from its normal home at the 
North Pole, a great sheet of ice spread southward — hundreds, 
and in places thousands, of feet in thickness — advancing from 
the highlands of Scandinavia, covering Central Europe, the 
entire basin of the present German Ocean, the larger portion 
of Great Britain and Ireland, and shooting its ice-masses into 
the ocean; for once the edge of the ice-sheet, which fronted the 
sea, became water-borne, fragments of greater or less dimensions 
would break away, just as they do from the ice-cliffs of the 
Arctic and Antarctic regions at the present day, and float off in 
the form of bergs, drifting with the currents of the ocean into 
warmer spheres, where they gradually return to their original 
condition. A thousand feet is a moderate estimate for the 
thickness of this ice-cap. Greenland is covered to a far greater 
depth, and the Antarctic sheet exceeds even that of Greenland. 
Standing on the summit of Knocknarea, near the town of Sligo, 
one can observe on it boulders carried from the metamorphic 
ridge some miles inland; this ridge again is covered with 
limestone blocks from the interior of the country, so that the 
ice which once desolated Ireland must have had a thickness 
much in excess of a thousand feet. "Even with this moderate 
thickness," remarks Sir Bobert Ball, " an ice-sheet would form a 
terrible engine. Every square inch of the floor over which this 
frozen ocean ploughed its way, would have to sustain a pressure 
of 400 lbs. ; every square foot of the country would, on an average 
sustain a load of about thirty tons." This period of intense cold 


was partly or wholly brought about by regularly recurring 
cosmical phenomena, which it would be out of place here to 
attempt to describe : let it suffice that the alternation of 
climate at periods of almost incalculable length is a theory 
held by many distinguished geologists, and which has, it is 
alleged, been strengthened by recent astronomical discoveries. 

A slight lowering of the temperature of the northern hemi- 
sphere would cause a sufficient accumulation of snow to create 
an Arctic condition, as this does not require intense cold to accom- 
plish. In the central parts of Siberia there are frequently regis- 
tered 100 degrees of frost, yet it possesses but few glaciers ; and 
although the Earth is permanently frozen at a short distance below 
the surface, the winter snow vanishes quickly every spring. A 
dry atmosphere will not allow the accumulation of snow or of 
glaciers, whilst a moderate fall of temperature below freezing- 
point, joined with a precipitation of moisture, will occasion an 
enormous accumulation of snow. It will help us to understand 
this if we remember how uncomfortable a boat is on a rainy day ; 
every drop of water that falls over the area of the skiff is retained, 
the occupant is surrounded with moisture that possesses no means 
of escape. Matters are even worse if it snows when the tempera- 
ture is below freezing-point ; for whilst heat dissipates water by 
carrying it away in vapour, with frost nothing escapes — the 
greater the cold, the greater the precipitation. Thus with a 
lower temperature, with mountains to cause precipitation, and 
with moisture-laden oceanic winds, immense fields of snow and 
of ice would certainly accumulate in the British Isles. 

The slowly forward-creeping northern ice-cap created in 
its passage a vast amount of stiff, stony mud or clay, called 
"boulder clay," owing to its characteristic feature being the 
prevalence of large stones or boulders ; but these do not, as a rule, 
appear to have been transported from any great distance. The 
question may thus be raised, was there a universal glaciation or 
merely local glaciers? Can the Ice Age be regarded as but a period 
when the European area was greatly elevated and greatly extended, 
when the higher valleys and plateaux bore immense local, as 
well as some more or less coalescent glaciers : a period when 
there existed, side by side, a dual flora and a dual fauna ; that 
of the snowfields and glaciers, and that of the warm valleys and 
plains beneath. 

The work accomplished in past ages by ice, or by glaciers, 
has been of the greatest importance to the present day farmer ; 
but for their action many districts now covered with rich soil, 
derived from pulverised rock-surfaces, would otherwise be repre- 
sented by a barren, stony desert. There is scarcely a valley 
throughout Ireland whose rounded, undulating, encircling hills 


do not tell of the plough-like work of the glacier. Our rivers 
flow through broad valleys, smoothed by ice, and by atmospheric 
wear and tear. The low lands have been covered with sedi- 
ment, the transported grindings of the rocks, whilst lakes 
formed during the Ice Age, are again slowly silting up, and 
instead of unstable, watery expanses, often present firm and 
broad meadow-lands. Bound the coast line the older geological 
formations rise in a broken ring of high ground, attaining, in 
places, the altitude of mountains, as if to protect the great 
central plain from any further encroachment of the Ocean. 
This central area consists of a gently undulating sheet of 
Carboniferous limestone, dotted here and there with isolated 
hills or hill-groups. 

In the inter- Glacial Epoch the greater portion of the present 
area of Great Britain and Ireland was submerged : the highlands 
and the summits of the mountains formed an archipelago of islets 
(see fig. 2). In this time of deep submergence the climate became 
more temperate, like that of the present day; the middle sands and 
gravels then deposited contain many shells identical with existing 
species. Sometimes these deposits rest directly on the Lower 
Boulder Clay, as at Howth and Killiney, whilst in other places 
they rest directly on the older rocks, and cover also large tracts 
in the central plain of Ireland, and are present on the Dublin 
and Ulster mountains at an elevation of about 1200 feet. 

After a prolonged interval the land began again gradually 
to rise and the climate became severe ; this stage is marked 
by layers of what are termed " Upper Boulder Clay." In the 
movement of elevation there appear to have been occasion- 
ally pauses of very lengthened duration. These pauses can be 
recognised by lines of old ocean-side caverns, whilst the best 
known and last line of elevation can be traced around the sea 
shores at a height of about twenty-five feet above the present 

The cold was not, however, so intense as during the first Arctic 
Period, and the snow-fields and glaciers were on a very much 
smaller scale ; the distinguishing mark of this period— the Upper 
Boulder Clay resting on the marine gravels— has been noticed in 
many places throughout Ireland. The idea commonly prevalent 
that land within Arctic influence is always dvearv and devoid of 
lifeis erroneous ; for, in the polar circle', life in 'the present day 
is, in the summer season, almost exuberant ; birds appear every- 
where ; flowers, identical with our own in genera, and often in 
species, flourish as in an Irish meadow in summer time. Even in 
the period of greatest glaciation oases may have remained in 
some of the highlands of Ireland, above, and therefore uncovered 
by, the polar ice-stream. In those oases were probably to be 



found an Arctic vegetation supporting the Arctic hare and the 
reindeer, together with other hardy animals. 

Climatic conditions gradually ameliorated ; the land slowly rose ; 
the snow dwindled on the mountain tops ; the glaciers vanished ; 
Continental plants and animals invaded Great Britain ; but 
Ireland appears to have remained semi-isolated. Standing on 
the cliffs of Antrim, the probability of the former continuity of 

Fig. 1!. 

Sketch Map showing land about 400 feet above the sea, in black, present 
area shaded, the 50 and 100 fathom lines by dotted lines. 

Ireland with North Britain is very apparent. On a clear day 
the Paps of Jura float like distant clouds on the horizon; 
Cantyre stands out clear and prominent ; the Isle of Arran, with 
Goat Fell, appears as lofty, but less distinct, and the outline of 
Ailsa leads the eye onward along the sweep of the Scottish 
coast which shows distinct or faint as the sun lights it up or 
the cloud-shadows rest upon it. If one might speculate on the 


past history of this scene, one could imagine theseeminences far 
more lofty than at present, each crowned with its ice-cap and its 
glaciers lording it over the plains, on which roamed strange 
animals (see fig. 3), the prey of very primitive men, until the 
level country was again invaded by the resistless ocean surge. 
Egypt has been styled " The gift of the Nile" ; Ireland may be 
described as the residuum which the joint effort of water and ice 
was unable to remove. This was a time when men eked out their 
scant vocabulary with gestures, and talked together as animals 
now do, when an estuary, or a broad and sluggish river, expand- 
ing at intervals into large marsh-surrounded lakes, flowed through 
a wide and gently undulating country now covered by the waters 
of the Irish Channel, when, in southern Britain, cave-bears, lions, 
sabre-toothed tigers, and wolves lurked in dens in the rocks, when 
grizzly bears, hyenas and apes frequented the forest, when the 
mammoth and wild-horse scoured the plain, when beavers erected 
dams on the lakes and rivers, and shiny black hippopotami 
sported in their waters. It was probably this land-connexion 
between Scotland and Ireland which permitted Quaternary 
mammals, such as the mammoth, Irish big horn, reindeer, and 
wolf, to migrate into the country, as all living and extinct 
mammals of Ireland, with the exception of the grizzly bear, have 
been found also in Scotland, but a considerable number of 
English extinct animals are absent from Ireland as well as from 
Scotland. In this theory — that of the late Professor Leith Adams 
— Professor E. F. Scharff appears to agree, for he says that the 
results obtained from inquiries instituted into a portion of the 
Irish fauna are as follows : — " Ireland was in later Tertiary times 
connected with Wales in the south, and Scotland in the north, 
whilst a freshwater lake occupied the present central area of the 
Irish Sea. The southern connexion broke down at the beginning 
of the Pleistocene Period, the northern connexion following soon 
after. There is no evidence of any subsequent land-connexion 
between Great Britain and Ireland." The Irish Sea and St. 
George's Channel were represented by a series of lagoons and 
a large broad connecting channel which joined the ocean some 
hundreds of miles from Land's End. The eastern streams of 
England formed tributaries of a gigantic river which, joining 
others from the Continent, discharged its waters into the North 
Sea. This was the time of the great fauna of England. The 
greater number of the largest mammals are now either extinct, 
or no longer found on English soil, but their osseous remains have 
occurred in association with objects of human manufacture. The 
principal mammalia are as follows — (animals whose remains are 
most commonly found are denoted by an asterisk): — The brown-, 
cave-,- and grizzly bear* ; cave hyunia,* cave lion,* sabre-toothed 


tiger ; the Great Irish Deer, or Megaceros, reindeer, urus, bison, 
woolly-haired rhinoceros,* mammoth, wild-horse, wolf ,_ glutton, 
large fox, and beaver. Comparatively few of the foregoing have 
been identified as present in Ireland ; yet even with a restricted 
number the nocturnal sounds would, in comparison with those now 
heard, be strange and startling. We should have the bellowing 
of the bulls and of the stags, the growling of bears, the neighing 
of wild horses, and the howling of wolves. 

There is a vast difference between the Mammalian fauna 
of the Palaeolithic or Older Stone Age and that of the Neo- 
lithic or Polished-stone Period ; the gap between the two eras 
represents an immense period of time during which the fauna 
of the country were undergoing transformation by the migration 
of some forms and the extinction of others, for the continued 
existence of all animal and vegetable life is an individual 
struggle. All are exposed to the attacks of enemies, and, except 
under special conditions none but the strong and healthy arrive 
at maturity and continue to propagate their species. 

Examination of deposits filling deep basins of ancient lakes 
affords a most reliable record of climatic changes from the close 
of the first great Ice Age to the comparatively modern period 
when these silted-up hollows were clothed with dense forests, 
buried in their turn under a vast accumulation of peat. The 
Bog of Ballybetagh, Co. Dublin, which covers the site of two 
ancient lake-beds, may be taken as a typical example. Its 
historian, Mr. W. Williams, is a good authority on the subject, 
as he spent ten weeks in making scientific excavations in the 
locality. Ballybetagh Bog, nine miles from Dublin, lies in a 
small valley 800 feet above sea level. Its elevation precluded the 
basin from receiving the drainage of any extensive sweep of 
country ; hence the clays with which this* hollow is filled could 
not have been transported from a distance, but were swept into 
it from the surrounding hills. 

The underlying stratum of Boulder Clay, of unknown thick- 
ness, deposited in the great Ice Age, rests on the granite. Next 
to it is a fine reconstructed Boulder Clay without stones. The 
next deposit, yellowish-grey in colour, almost entirely composed 
of vegetable matter, has been subjected to great pressure. The 
succeeding layer has all the appearance of lake sediment, and 
bears witness to a time during which the gigantic deer, the Irish 
Big-horn or Megaceros, appeared, leaving its skeletons in this 
deposit. These animals may have been" drowned after having 
mired and stuck fast in the thick tenacious re-arranged 
Boulder Clay. The next deposit consists of ttthrU from the hills 
brought down by frost and rain, filling the lake beds, and prepar- 
ing the surface for the growth of peat of no great thickness, its 


accumulation retarded by the elevation of the district. It contains 
trunks of oak and alder, but the Fir-forest Age is not represented. 
According to the evidence afforded by these successive deposits, 
the Gigantic Deer lived in Ireland during the period of the great 
English fauna, wandering over immense grass-covered prairies, 
through which it was free to roam safely, as the largest 
predatory animal was the wolf. It might be thought that such 
a huge animal would require a greater expanse of pasturage than 
would be afforded by the present land area, but Ireland was then 
of far greater extent, protruding northward, westward, and south- 
ward into the present ocean. 

Observe the circling ripples made by a stone thrown into 
tranquil water; close at hand they seem to crowd and jostle each 
other, but as they expand, and spread further and further from 
their origin, they become less defined and more feeble until 
they finally die away. Osseous remains of animals are, in the 
same way, always discovered in greatest abundance in the 
immediate vicinity of their former habitat, and, as the distance 
from it increases, signs of their former presence constantly 
diminish until all traces disappear. Thus, the great number of 
the skeletons and immense horns of this gigantic deer that are 
found, points to Ireland having formed at one period its chosen 

In the rock-shelters and caves of the Continent, especially 
in France, the deposits encrusted in stalagmite, covered to 
a greater or less depth with accumulated ililiris, are almost 
exclusively refuse heaps, containing fractured and unfractured 
bones of animals which served for the food of their former 
inhabitants, mixed with human osseous remains, lost or injured 
tools, utensils, and weapons, generally lying near or around the 
cooking-hearth. The object in resorting to rock-shelters and caves 
was doubtless to gain protection from the weather. Who these 
people were, at what date they existed, or whether they have any 
descendants now on Earth, is at present impossible to decide. If 
the objects shown as specimens of their skill be really the 
product of their hands, with them indeed the artistic faculty 
was abnormally developed. Artistic taste appears to be entirely 
wanting among men of the succeeding Polished Stone Period. 
There was, as far as archaeological research at present extends, 
no earlier race from which these cave-dwellers were derived, 
and they left no successors. When the glaciers retreated, 
this picture-making race disappeared, probably following north- 
ward the reindeer and other animals on which it subsisted. 
Centuries upon centuries glided by; upon the same soil, tribe 
succeeded tribe, but there was no re-appearance or even approxi- 
mation to the skill and artistic feeling displayed by these 


mysterious cave-dwellers, who, ignorant of the use of bronze, of 
pottery, of agriculture, and having domesticated neither the rein- 
deer nor the dog, were yet endowed with a faculty of depicting 
animal life, with a few skilful strokes, that would do credit to a 
nineteenth-century artist in a Parisian atelier. 

The question may naturally be asked, at what period were the 
rude flint implements, found in Ireland, deposited in the gravels 
in which they are discovered embedded, often in great quantities ? 
Accustomed to reckon terrestrial affairs by brief historical periods, 
we may well hesitate in fixing a very definite date ; suffice _ it 
that the era of deposit goes back to a time when Great Britain, 
and probably also Ireland, formed part of the European continent. 
The Glacial Period had been succeeded by one comparatively 
genial ; the face of the continent was at a great altitude ; the beds 
of rivers were at a higher level than formerly, and the extended land- 
surface made them subject to floods which graduahy excavated 
the wide hoUows of the valleys. Take one example : a salient 
feature in the geology of Sligo is the enormous denudation of 
the Carboniferous beds in the north-east of the county. It may 
assist in conveying an idea of this general denudation if we try 
to estimate the quantity of material that would be requisite to 
fill up even one of the excavated valleys — say Glencar. A mass 
adequate for that purpose would need to be nine miles long, a 
breadth of two miles at each end, and one in the centre, with a 
vertical thickness ranging from 400 to 1100 feet; yet the gap, 
large as it is, forms but a small part of the total excavation that 
has left the adjacent mountains standing out in conspicuous 
relief. What a lengthened period this, and other similar exca- 
vations have been estimated to occupy, has been calculated from 
observations made in the valleys of well-known rivers. The 
weak part of the argument is, that it is taken for granted that 
the rate of erosion was always the same, and no account 
appears to be taken of a probably much accelerated denuding 
action, aided by ice or other powerful agents. It may therefore 
be suggested that the transformation in the Irish, as well as in 
the European landscape, might have taken place in a much 
shorter, or in a much greater space of time than has been calcu- 
lated by eminent geologists. G. H. Kinahan, in his Oeoloi/ii of 
Ireland, draws attention to the fact that " when ice first invades 
a country it effects great denudation, rapidly wearing away and 
removing, except in protected places, all loose and soft portions 
of the surface ; but when the solid rocks are reached the work 
goes on more slowly, till eventually the surface becomes so 
rearranged, oven, and polished, that the ice has very little power 
of denudation." "With regard also to the slowness of erosion, 
it has been estimated that the Thames lowers its basin at the 


rate of about one foot in 12,000 years ! Another calculation 
estimates the average erosion of English valleys at about one 
foot in 1200 years. 

Sir John Lubbock has accepted 200,000 years as an approxi- 
mation in regard to the time when the European rivers, fed by a 
much greater expanse of land, and a heavier rainfall than at 
present, first began to hollow out the valleys of our existing 
streams, now but tiny rills when compared to their splendid prede- 
cessors. Again, it is often asserted that palaeolithic implements 
were in use as far back as the Tertiary Period, which it is calcu- 
lated extended to some 300,000 years. Between this age — which 
was thousands of years before the great Ice Age— and that of 
neolithic man, there was a gap of some quarter of a million years. 
Then we have the age during which man was contemporary, in 
Ireland, with the gigantic big-horn and with the reindeer, only some 
50,000 odd years ago. It requires an effort to grasp calculations 
so stupendous. The subject should be treated broadly, by means 
of comparison and analogy, without reference to dates. Let it 
be modeBtly suggested that modern geologists are, in these 
matters, making sweeping assertions upon little certain foun- 
dation, and are, probably quite unintentionally, copying the 
example of those ecclesiastics who placed a chronology of the Old 
Testament, drawn up by themselves, in the margin, and expected 
every one to interpret the text by their calculations. In the same 
way geologists are placing their chronology on the book of nature, 
and attempting to mark out the period of time in which the all- 
ruling power accomplished the work. Let us be content, while 
we have only the information at present at our disposal, to 
believe that the periods under review took an immeasurable 
time, and that geologists have in this matter probably made 
a mistake in proportion even greater than the discrepancy 
between Archbishop Ussher's chronology and known geological 
data. It must, however, be acknowledged that, as a rule, 
geologists are very reticent with regard to dates ; but in the 
matter of the glacial epoch, geologically a comparatively late, 
and indeed almost historical event, they have broken through 
their reserve and have given an almost stereotyped numerical 
determination : accordingly, when even distinguished geologists 
give dates for things geological, it behoves the uninitiated to 
receive (with caution) whatever these specialists decree. Some 
writers state that it is not fifteen thousand years since the last 
ice melted off the Highlands of Ireland, and one of the many 
objections marshalled against the ingenious theory of the Ice 
Age is that the lingering effects of the last great eccentricity 
of the Earth's orbit continued down to forty thousand years 
ago, which period is insufficient to account for the recentness 


of the close of the Glacial Period. In fact " the unknown 
elements of the problem are so numerous," remarks Professor 
G. F. "Wright, " and so far-reaching is their possible scope, that a 
cautious attitude of agnosticism, with respect to the cause of the 
Glacial Period, is most scientific and becoming." 

Archbishop Ussher was diffident when compared with the 
early prelates of the Church who posed as philosophers as well 
as bishops. " The first congress of ecclesiastical savants that 
ever dealt with and fixed the beginning of all things to their 
own entire satisfaction, met at Jerusalem in the beginning of the 
third century." Their avowed object was to settle the exact day 
on which the Earth sprang from Chaos, in order that something 
salutary might be ordained respecting the observation of Easter. 
The process by which they arrived at the desired conclusion is 
told at considerable length by Bede, which Dr. Doran thus 
amusingly summarizes : — " The world was made on Sunday, in 
the spring time, at the equinox, on the eighth of the Kalends 
of April, when the moon was at the full ! The course of the 
argument which sustained this very definite conclusion was 
this : — God rested on the seventh day, which was the Sabbath, or 
Saturday, after making the world in six days. He must, there- 
fore, have begun on the first, which was Sunday; then, as theEarth 
brought forth grass and herb-yielding seed, and trees yielding 
fruit, the not very logical conclusion was, that the world started 
on its career in fair spring time. As God divided the light and 
the darkness, the day and night which He had created, into 
equal parts, there scarcely required further proof to show that 
this must have been the equinox — in other words and for greater 
accuracy, the eighth of the Kalends of April ; and finally, the 
moon must have been full at the time, seeing that God made 
the two great luminaries, that ' they might give light upon the 
earth, the greater luminary in the beginning of the day, the 
lesser one in the beginning of the night. It could not have been 
thus,' said the bishops, [ unless the moon wore at full.' By this 
sort of reasoning the prelates established nn error that was long 
accepted for truth ; and probably no vulgar fallacy was ever con- 
ceived, fashioned, forged, and beat into shape with such circum- 
stance and ceremony as this which dated the Creation on a spring 
Sunday in March when the moon was at the full ! " Does it not 
afford food for profound reflection that, a few hundred years ago. 
if anyone had been so independent as to doubt this absurd teach- 
ing, and had openly expressed dissent, he would have run a good 
chance of being burnt, as an example to others, to believe, with- 
out demur, what was ecclesiastically decreed. No wonder that 
science is continually engaged in a grim warfare of aggression 
against the forces of obscurantism. 


To the credit of theologians, it must be admitted that they 
have now generally recognised that the Scriptures were not 
intended to serve the purpose of a scientific hand-book ; though, 
while religious writers generally have given up the attempt to fix 
the date of the beginning of the world, some few, with more zeal 
than discretion, and in spite of a warning they at any rate might 
be expected to respect, still busy themselves in fixing an exact 
date for the end of the world. A late writer gives the very day 
and hour for the end. One might imagine that the innumerable 
recorded failures of such predictions ought to have suggested 
caution. But it is not after all upon any supposed system of 
natural science that such persons found their calculations, but 
un the method of giving mystical value to numbers. The 
"seventy weeks" and the "little horn," whicli occupy so im- 
portant a place in their works, can, by a little scientific manipu- 
lation, be made suit almost any date and any name that may be 

As a rule, however, theologians rush in where laymen fear to 
tread ; it has been the same from the early centuries of Christianity 
to the present day ; from the first Council of the Church to the 
nineteenth-century curate, who (from the pulpit) lays down the 
law to his own satisfaction on subjects that his master, the 
parson, would probably decline to discuss. 

Clerical attempts to explain away traces of the former presence 
of the mammoth and other great beasts, its contemporaries, in 
the British Isles, do not call for refutation, but maybe mentioned 
on account of their unintentionally amusing character. According 
to one of these theories, the mammoth and its congeners were 
brought over to the British Isles by the Phoenicians, who sailed 
the seas with a kind of travelling circus in order to amuse and 
astonish the natives with whom they traded. In an address to 
the British Association in 18K3, a speaker quoted from a re- 
ligious journal an amusing instance of the promulgation of this 
theory. Writing on the subject of British bone caves and the 
discoveries made in them, the author of the article in question 
states, that he desires to present to the public his own views with 
regard to these caves and the phenomena connected with them. 
According to this authority, " a great many of the old mines in 
Europe were opened by Phoenician colonists and metal workers a 
thousand years before the Romans had set foot in Britain, which 
accounts for the various floors of stalagmite found in most caves, 
and also for the variety of groups of bones embedded in them. 
The animals represented by them when living were not running 
wild about the hills devouring each other, as science men suppose, 
but were the useful auxiliaries and trained drudges of the miners 
in their work. Some of them, as the bear, had simply been 



hunted and used for food, and others of a fierce character, as the 
hyena, to frighten and keep in awe the native Britons. The 
larger species of Mammalia, as the elephant, the rhinoceros, and 
hippopotamus, and beasts foreign to the country, the Eomans, no 
less than the Phoenicians, had every facility in bringing with them 
in their ships of commerce from Carthage or other of the African 
ports. These, with the native horse, ox, and stag, which are 
always found in larger numbers in the caves than the remains of 
foreign animals, all worked peacefully together in the various 
occupations of the mines. . . . The hippopotamus, although 
amphibious, is a grand beast for heavy work, such as mining, 
quarrying, and road-making, and his keeper would take care 
that he was comfortably lodged in a tank of water during the 

The discoveries of geology, archaeology, and of folk-lore have 
so completely swept away the old dogmatic chronology, and so 
extended the known period of man's presence on the Earth, that 
it becomes necessary to construct, at any rate provisionally, some 
scheme to account for his origin and history more in accordance 
with the facts of science, than the present existing and deeply 
engrained quasi-historical and religious traditions and beliefs on 
the subject. This is what is here attempted — as regards Ireland 
— as a small contribution to the literature on the origin of civili- 
zation throughout the world. The endeavour to find a theory, 
and to keep on the right track, is beset with difficulties ; the path 
is not only intricate and ill-defined, but is crowned with obstacles, 
and beset, on either side, with gins and pitfalls. It is hard to 
decide whether the exploration of an unknown region, or a proper 
description of the discoveries so made, is the more difficult task 
to accomplish in a satisfactory manner. 

We see that there were great changes, but they were very 
gradual, both in their incomings and their outgoings: — 

" Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small ; 
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all." 

Nowhere in the history of the Earth's crust, not even in Ireland 
—whose historians appear to imagine that the Green Isle was 
created an exception to the general laws as well of nature as of 
history — do we find evidence of an abrupt termination of one 
order of things, and an equally abrupt introduction of another. 
Few, scanty, and disconnected as are the records of the Ice Age, 
they all appear to point to the continuous action and reaction of 
natural forces, not to capricious changes, or to widely rano-ed 

After all the apparently immense geological periods are in 
reality but a mere fraction of the time required to account for the 


beginning of life and the development of vegetables and animals 
from a common ancestor. The geological estimate rests mainly 
on the gross deposit in the stratified rocks, and, allowing for the 
possible action of more rapid causes of change in former times, 
it suggests a period of approximately one hundred million years 
since the cooling of the Earth's surface permitted the earliest 
"life form" or " organised life " to appear. Physicists basing 
their calculations on the origin and age of the Sun's heat, the 
rate of the Earth's cooling, and other data, arrive at about the 
same conclusion. 

" The seasons run their round — the Sun fulfils 
His annual course — and heaven and Earth remain 
Still changing, yet unchanged — Btill doomed to feel 
Endless mutation in perpetual rest. 

Oh! who can strive 
To comprehend the vast, the awful truth 
Of the eternity that hath gone hy, 
And not recoil from the dismaying sense 
Of human impotence ? " 

As the British Islands stand nearly upon the edge of the 
great European plateau, which a little over 200 miles to the 
west plunges down into the abysses of the Atlantic, it is certain 
that although the continental area was prolonged westward 
beyond its present limits, it yet could never have exceeded the 
100 fathom line, but on the other extremity of the British area, 
even at the present day, an elevation of 600 feet would convert 
the entire of the North Sea into dry land, and bones of the extinct 
fauna of other days have been dredged up by fishermen from the 
surface of the Dogger bank ; off Dunkirk the sea-bottom is so 
covered with Mammalian remains, that the sailors call it " tlie 
Burying-ground." It therefore seems probable that these animals 
must have roved in herds across the plains over which the waters 
of the North Sea now roll. 

The outline of the old Quaternary Continental coast-line (fig. 4) 
can still, it is thought, be roughly traced from Scandinavia, the 
Shetland and Hebrides, to Roekall and the vanished isle of Hy 
JSrasil, and from that on southward of Ireland and Land's End. 
In strange corroboration of the former existence of Hy Brasil, it 
is laid down on a chart by the French Geographer Royal, in the 
year 1634, very much in the position of the Porcupine Bank, 
situated near the edge of the great plateau, which stretches 
into the Atlantic, and of greater width off Guhvav Bay than 
anywhere else on the Irish coast. The bank is only sixty 
fathoms below sea-level ; from this landward the water gradually 

v 2 


deepens ; then again gradually becomes shallower as the Bay of 
Galway is approached. It is alleged that discovery has also been 
made, by dredging on this bank, of the common periwinkle, a 
shell that is inhabited by a mollusk requiring exposure, at re- 
gular intervals, to air as well as to water ; in fact only living 
where the sea rises and falls on rocks. 

The wear of the Atlantic billows during late centuries can be 
vaguely traced. On the map of 1634 before mentioned, Eockall 
is shown as consisting of two adjacent islands, one considerably 

Fiu. 4. 

Ideal Sketch Map, showing approximate old Quaternary Continent at its 
maximum extent. Present land area represented black. 

larger than the other ; at the present day these are represented 
by two banks or shoals, one of considerable extent, the other a 
small rock, still above the waters, and surrounded by an extensive 
bank, as forty miles from this last pinnacle of a sunken land 
there are but 150 fathoms over it. This extremely dangerous 
speck in mid-ocean is probably the remains of the " lost " or 
" sunken land" passed by one of Frobisher's ships, and described 
as a long, low-lying, wooded island. 


In numerous localities, especially around the western and 
southern coasts, there are often to be seen, at unusually low 
tides, extensive tracts of submerged bogs, full of stumps and 
roots of former forest timber, which point to the time when the 
now sunken forests must have been considerably above the ocean 
level . In no other way save in the assumed existence of a vastly 
increased continental area can the presence of submerged forests 
and immense tracts of peat with the roots of trees be accounted 
for, more especially " in such isolated islands as those of Orkney 
and Shetland, now swept by ocean blasts, and where no vestige 
of a tree has grown for at least 2000 years, when a Roman 
author described them as ' Carentes Sylva.' " This last sub- 
sidence is most likely synchronous with the final separation of 
Great Britain from the European continent, for, after attaining 
a considerable elevation, the land of the European area appears 
to have slightly subsided, and from this period we enter into 
times comparatively modern. The isolation of Ireland took place 
long before Britain had been separated from the European area. 
This may be inferred from a comparison of the distribution of 
present-day plants and animals. The interval which has elapsed 
since the submergences and the ice-caps of the Glacial Period 
must, if measured by ordinary human standards, have been of 
enormous duration ; yet even this prodigious period was too 
short to enable the plants and animals of Central Europe com- 
pletely to possess themselves of the British area. Professor A. 
Geikie, F.R.S.L, remarks that — "Generation after generation they 
were moving westward ; but long before they could all reach the 
north-western seaboard, Ireland had become an island, so that 
their further march in that direction was arrested ; and before 
the subsequent advancing bands had come as far as Britain, it 
too had been separated by a sea channel which finally barred 
their progress. Comparing the total land Mammals of the west 
of Europe, we find that, while Germany has ninety species. 
Britain has forty, and Ireland only twenty-two. The Reptiles 
and Amphibia of Germany number twenty-two, those of Britain 
thirteen, and those of Ireland four. Again, even among the 
winged tribes, where the capacity for dispersal is so much greater, 
Britain possesses twelve species of bats, while Ireland has no 
more than seven, and 130 landbirds to 110 in Ireland. The 
same discrepancy is traceable in the flora, for while the total 
number of species of flowering plants and ferns found in Britain 
amounts to 1 125, those of Ireland number 970 — about two-thirds 
of the British flora. Such facts as these are not explicable by 
any difference of climate rendering Ireland less fit for the recep- 
tion of more varied vegetation and animal life ; for the climate 
of Ireland is really more equable and genial than that of the 


regions lying to the east of it. They receive a natural and 
consistent interpretation on the assumption of the gradual sepa- 
ration of the British Islands during a continuous north-western 
migration of the present flora and fauna from Central Europe." 

Eegarded merely as a physical event, apart from other con- 
siderations, the first appearance and development of man must 
have, slowly but surely, effected a change in the fauna. It is an 
advent the date of which we may ultimately become cognizant 
of, and marks the boundary or dividing line between two great 
periods, the present and the Tertiary. A primeval race appeared 
in Europe at a remote period, Interglacial at latest, and filled 
with a scanty population a vast extent of territory. As regards 
the British Isles and Ireland, it may be safely stated that, though 
Palaeolithic or rude-flint-using man arrived on foot, Neolithic or 
polished-flint-using man probably arrived by water ; only in the 
Later Stone Age do the sheep, goat, long-faced ox, and dog 
make their appearance on the scene as domesticated animals. 

As on the ocean of time successive waves of types and specie3 
have risen and fallen, have come and gone, so primitive man has 
here appeared, lived, and disappeared. Even without being able 
to describe him from his osseous frame-work, a good idea of 
what he was like can be formed. He was short in stature, with 
large belly and small calves to the legs, the females considerably 
shorter than the males. Both sexes went almost naked, or only 
partially protected from the inclemency of the weather by the 
skins of animals killed in the chase. They were covered with 
hair like wild animals ; their heads were long and flat with 
receding foreheads ; the features animal-like and repulsive, for 
the lower jaws with projecting teeth were massive. Not a 
pleasing description, but primitive man was not handsome. 
Even then, however, he was not degraded, for he had never risen 
higher ; and although we may now-a-days regard him as bestial, 
he nevertheless represented in his day the highest stage of 
development in the animal kingdom ; yet, in this age, which is 
perpetually occupied in proclaiming itself the age of enlighten- 
ment and of progress, the majority of people still prefer to look 
upon themselves as inferior to their original ancestors. The idea 
that man has risen is considered not only to be degrading, but 
positively irreligious ; whilst the idea that he has fallen from a 
higher estate is regarded as ennobling, as strictly religious, and 
therefore orthodox. 

The idea of the gradual advance of man from a state but little 
removed from the mere animal was, like the vast reons of geology, 
dimly perceived by the ancients ; for both Greek and Roman 
philosophers and poets depict, in vague but nevertheless striking 
periods, the lowly origin of the human race. Thus Horace states 


that ' : when animals first crept forth from this new-formed Earth, 
a dumb and filthy herd, they fought for acorns and lurking- 
places with their nails and fists, then with clubs, and at last 
with arms, which, taught by experience,- they had forged. 
They then invented names for things, and words to express their 

Races in a state of barbarism either die out at once in pre- 
sence of a stronger and more civilized people, or their lower 
characteristics are effaced by assimilating intermixture with the 
intruding community. Man cannot be considered as an iso- 
lated being, he is but one link in the great chain of animal 
creation. It has been remarked that the brains of most savages, 
and the skulls of most primitive races are larger than — in 
theory — they ought to be ; often rather larger than the brains 
and skulls of the average of the masses inhabiting the great 
cities of the present day. " But this need not cause surprise if 
the life of intelligent interest passed by the savage child be taken 
into consideration. From the tenderest age he was observant 
of all the devices practised by his parents for procuring clothing, 
food, means of defence, in short, all the essentials of existence ; 
the natural result of his wild life was health and strength " ; 
indeed on the principle of the survival of the fittest, it could 
only be the robust who lived through the hardships and climatic 
exposure incidental to a savage life.* The greatest incentives 
to exertion, on the part of primitive man, are hunger and 
thirst, heat and cold ; without such spurs to original sloth we 
should still probably be eating acorns, chipping Mints, and 
" making ourselves as comfortable as might be in the company 
of other species." 

Climate undoubtedly stamps well-marked characteristics on 
the human frame in regard to both physical and mental develop- 
ment. Extremes of cold or of heat deteriorate body and mind 
alike, whilst a temperate climate stimulates both. The theory has 
arisen that man came into existence in a warm climate, whilst 

* On this subject S. Baring Gould, m.a., remarks that " intellectual de- 
velopment necessarily leads to a. deterioration of tho p/n/^iijue of the species ; 
high civilization introduces a multitude of disorders unknown to savage life ; 
and such deterioration must end in the extinction of the race. In a simple and 
barbarous state of society, the weak and deformed die as children. Civilization 
tends to accumulate and propagate disease and malformation; for science and 
the attention which in a cultivated race can be bestowed on its infirm, keep the 
diseased and deformed alive, and suffer them to breed and spread their disorder 
an.l malformation through generations of children. In savage life the process 
of natural selection tends to raise the type of man, the inferior types dying out : 
but civilized life prevents the operation of the natural law, and therefore tem.s 
to tho deterioration of the race." 


civilization commenced in a temperate climate. The discovery of 
a semi-tropical fauna and flora having formerly flourished within 
the Arctic Circle has given birth to the idea that man's origin was 
at the North Pole. But unless distinct traces of primitive man's 
presence in these latitudes are brought to light of more ancient 
date than those which have been discovered in other and more 
likely parts of the globe, the theory can only be regarded as a 
fantastic speculation. 

Almost everywhere, throughout Europe, there are traces of a 
later and numerous people, also unknown to history, who have left 
very material traces of their occupancy of the land, and tradition 
points to an early race of diminutive folk who inhabited Ire- 
land. No recognizable crania have been found, and but scanty 
osseous remains. They probably hunted the reindeer and the 
Gigantic Deer, and were exterminated — driven out of the country, 
or perhaps partly absorbed by succeeding tribes of immigrants. 
The engineer and the agriculturist are, from time to time, bring- 
ing to light unlooked for ancient interments, and though some 
have been carefully noted by competent observers, yet, in 
several instances, through ignorance of their value, many crania 
— which of course are to be met with whole only in carnal 
interments — have either been destroyed or lost. 

Sir John Browne, when discoursing on urn-burial some two 
centuries ago, quaintly observes that "the dimensions of the head 
measure the whole body, and the figure thereof gives conjecture of 
the principal faculties ; physiognomy outlives ourselves, and ends 
not in the grave." That the cranium constitutes an element of 
paramount importance in studying the natural history of man, is 
now universally admitted, but it is a science in itself, and one who 
has not been trained as a surgeon ought to make confession in 
the words of Cicero : " Nor am I ashamed, like those men, to 
acknowledge that I do not know the things which I do not 

Anthropologists assure us that at least two distinct races of 
immigrants— each of very marked characteristic type — landed 
on our shores. These can now (it is alleged) be classed and 
identified by the configuration of their crania ; for as the brain is 
the seat of the intellectual capacities, the structure of the skull is 
of primordial importance. The relation of the length of the 
cranium to its breadth is regarded as one of the most charac- 
teristic marks of distinction between different races. If the 
extreme breadth of the skull, when compared with its extreme 
length from front to back, does not exceed 75 per cent, of the 
length, the skull is said to be dolichocephalic or long-headed ; 
if it equals or exceeds 83 per cent, it is called braehvcephalie] 
i.e. short or broad-headed. Intermediate indices are called sub- 


dolichocephalic or sub-brachycephalic, according as they approach 
one or the other of these extremes, but are of less importance, 
as they probably are the result of inter-crossing. 

There is a charming simplicity in the study of ethnology as 
taught by some Anglican divines. One learned canon gravely 
alleges that all the European dolichocephalic, or long-headed 
races, are, nowaday, Protestant ; all the brachycephalic, or round- 
headed races, Catholic, or Greek Church, with, however, certain 
exceptions which but prove the rule. Unless a learned divine 
had led the way, an ignorant layman would not have ventured 
to follow on this curious recently discovered bypath of ethnology ; 
but, in future, when one inquires of oneself why one is a Catholic 
or a Protestant, the reason will obviously be afforded by referring 
to a careful measurement of the cephalic index. 

The form of skull attributed to the first known inhabitants 
of Ireland is distinguished by great length from the front to the 
back of the head, and comparative narrowness of the skull ; 
it is alleged that the specimens presented are too numerous and 
have been found over too wide an area to permit of their being 
considered mere varieties, especially as a similar form of skull 
is to be met with amongst the aboriginal remains found in 
England, and over a large proportion of the continent of Europe. 
Explorers who have not made the physical conformation of 
the human frame their study possess, however, no standpoint 
from which to test their own ideas. Often, when opening a 
" Giiint's Grave," workmen have drawn attention to the great size 
of the human bones which they disinterred, when in reality the 
bones had formed the framework of a man of but medium stature. 
The minds of the searchers were imbued with the idea that the 
bones must of necessity be of superhuman size, for were they not 
found in a " Giant's Grave " ? In the same way the judgment 
of an antiquary may, insensibly to himself, be biassed by his 
own imagination regarding some preconceived theory. A 
distinguished writer on archeology has observed : " There is 
no failing to which antiquarian observers seem more liable 
than seeing too much." 

There are also slight varieties in the form of the crania of the 
long-headed or primitive race, for the progenitors of the early 
inhabitants of Ireland probably arrived in detached groups and at 
considerable intervals of time, doubtless representing successive 

The second type of Irish crania is, by some, also divided into 
two classes — both, however, belonging to what scientists have 
named a brachycephalic or round-headed race. The skull is of 
medium size, well-shaped, but with projecting upper jaw ; the 
chin not massive ; the nose short and wide. 


The second subdivision of the crania of the round-headed race 
is regular, the nose long and aquiline, the face narrow, the fore- 
head straight and of medium height ; a long oval outline in the 
vertical aspect of the skull, whilst the lower jaw is distinguished 
by its square outline and massive structure — giving a distinctive 
character to the face. 

Variety of shape in crania, within certain limits, appears to 
be the law of nature — not the exception — and each race exhibits 
countless variations of mental combinations. This is suggestive 
and calculated to impress the necessity of great caution and 
extensive observation of facts, before venturing to draw general 
conclusions. Classification of crania into distinct types, and then 
making that type the badge of a race, is a system of doubtful 
value. At any public meeting how many varying types of crania 
may be observed. Open an old pagan " Caltragh," and the same 
result becomes apparent ; skulls of every size and form may be 
unearthed, though all the remains are referable to about the 
same period of time, and probably all may have belonged to one 
sept ; yet had these skulls been found disassociated, they might 
have been viewed as representatives of totally different races. 
Professor T. H. Huxley is of opinion that the greatest and most 
strongly-marked differences in skulls is not a proof that they 
are of different races. In his examination of the two celebrated 
crania found in the caves of Engis and Neanderthal, pre- 
sumed to be amongst the oldest remains of man, he says : — 
" It would be difficult to find any two which differ from each 
other more strongly, but I am not willing to draw any definite 
conclusion as to their specific variety from that fact. . . . Are 
not the variations amongst the skulls of a pure race to the full 
as extensive ? " 

The Neanderthal skull was found, in the year 1857, in the 
Valley of Diissel, near Diisseldorf, in a cave about sixty feet 
above the stream, in the face of the precipitous winding ravine 
through which the river runs. The thickness of the bones of the 
skull is extraordinary, and the ridges and depressions, correspond- 
ing to the attachment of the muscles, are very strongly marked. 
The forehead is very low, very ape-like, indicating small cerebral 
development, and great strength of corporeal frame. Professor 
Huxley further remarks : — 

"Let it be supposed that the human remains from the caves 
of the Neanderthal and of Spy, represent the race, or one of the 
races, of men who inhabited Europe in the Quaternary Epoch, 
can any connexion be traced between it and existing race's ? That 
is to say, do any of them exhibit characters approximating those 
of the Spy men, or other examples of the Neanderthaloid race ? 
Put in the latter form, I think that the question may be safely 


answered in the affirmative. Skulls do occasionally approach 
the Neanderthaloid type, among both the brunette and the 
blonde long-headed races. For the former I pointed out the 
resemblance long ago in some of the Irish river-bed skulls. For 
the latter evidence of various kinds may be adduced." 

Professor T. H. Huxley formulated certain propositions, 
which appeared to him to rest on a secure foundation, relative 
to the physical characters of the inhabitants of Britain and their 
neighbours, together with other propositions concerning the 
languages spoken by them. 

Physical Characters of the People. 

i. " Eighteen hundred years ago the population of Britain comprised people 
of two types of complexion — the one fair, the other dark. The dark people 
resemhled the Aquitain and the Iberians ; the fair people were like the Belgic 

II. "The people termed Gauls, and those called Germans, by the Romans, 
did not differ in any important physical character." 

in. " In none of the invasions of Britain which have taken place since the 
Roman dominion, has any other type of man been introduced than one or other 
of the two which existed during that dominion." 

iv. "The Xanthochroi (fair whites) and the Melanochroi (dark whites) 
of Britain are, speaking broadly, distributed, at present, as they were in the 
time of Tacitus ; and their representatives on the Continent of Europe have 
the same general distribution as at the earliest period of which we have any 

Languages Spoken. 

i. " At the time of the Roman Conquest one language, the Celtic, under 
two principal dialectical divisions, the Cymric and the Gaelie, was spoken 
throughout the British Islands. Cymric was spoken in Britain, Gaelie in 
Ireland." (Professor Huxley subsequently considered the terms Cymric and Gaelic 
as antiquated and improper, and substituted fur them " Celtic dialect a" and 
" Celtic dialect B.") 

II. " The Belgaj and the Celtic, with the offshoots of the latter in Asia 
Minor, spoke dialects of the Cymric division of Celtic. " 

in. " There is no record of Gaelic being spoken anywhere save in Ireland, 
Scotland, and the Isle of Man." 

iv. "When the Teutonic languages first became known, they were spoken 
only (since modified to something like "principally") by Xanthochroi (fair 
whiles), that is to say, by the Germans, and Scandinavians, and Goths; and 
they wero imported by Xanthochroi (fair whites) into Gaul and Britain." 

v. " The Celtic and the Teutonic dialects are members of the same great 
Aryan family of languages ; but thoro is evidence to show that a non-Aryan 
language was at one time spoken over a large extent of the area occupied by 
Melanochroi (dark whiles) in Europe." 


Thus Ireland was inhabited, at the earliest period of which 
we have any knowledge, by "fair-white" and ''dark-white" 
races, which there is every reason to believe were identical with 
the white and dark people of Britain. 

It is worthy of observation that extreme types of crania, are 
represented in two specimens discovered in the well-known "find," 
within the tumulus in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, demonstrating 
that the commonly received theory of cranial forms being more 
and more stereotyped the further hack we penetrate into the 
obscurity of the past, is not always corroborated by accurate ob- 
servation. The occupancy of a common tomb would imply that 
they were contemporaneously interred, and that they belonged, to 
members of the same family or tribe, and as only bone and flint 
implements— together with a shell necklace — were found, it 
may be considered that the period of interment was that of a 
barbarous state of society. 

The continuous damp of thousands of years reduces even the 
densest crania to fragile ruins, unless its effects be counteracted 
by other influences, among which a more than ordinary density 
of bone is a phenomenon usually observable in prehistoric skulls, 
certainly in such as were disinterred, in mere fragments, by the 
writer, from the Carrowmore series of Eude Stone Monuments, 
near Sligo. In old persons increased density of bone appears to 
occur ; the more perfectly it becomes consolidated, the less per- 
meable does it become to moisture, and the more tenaciously does 
it retain animal matter essential to its integrity. For example, in 
the sepulchral mound at Mount 'Wilson, which contained about 
fifty skeletons, the greatest diversity of appearance was exhibited 
among the crania, some being scarcely touched by decay, whilst 
others were reduced to pulp, which rendered it impossible to 
remove them, even in moderate-sized fragments, vet none of them 
had apparently ever had any other covering, or protection, than 
the soil in which they were embedded. The chances are therefore 
that any really ancient crania which may be found, will be 
referable — except under special circumstances — to individuals 
who had passed their fortieth year. 

A large brain generally indicates intellectual power ; this is 
borne out by many facts, but there does not appear to be any 
absolute law yet defined connecting great brain with great in- 
tellect. A madman, for example, may have a great brain, but 
has not great intellect. All that can at present be advanced is 
that a man with a weighty brain is likely to be more intelligent 
than a man with a small one. There is also another point beyond 
which we cannot at present penetrate. The late Professor Huxley 
was of opinion that, as the evidence stands, it would appear that 
"the sort of brain which characterises the highest Mammals, 


and which, so far as we know, is the indispensable condition of 
the highest sensibility did not come into existence before the Ter- 
tiary Period" ; and further, that it is a conclusion " fully justified 
by analogy, that, sooner or later, we shall discover the remains 
of our less specialised primitive ancestors in the strata which 
have yielded the less specialised equine and canine quadrupeds. 
At present fossil remains of men do not take us back further than 
the later part of the Quaternary Epoch ; and, as was to be ex- 
pected, they do not differ more from existing men than Quaternary 
horses differ from existing horses." 

In most instances of the discovery of perfect crania — even 
those of children — the teeth appear to be much worn, as if by 
attrition of some very hard kind of food, the process of degra- 
dation keeping pace with the age of the individual ; the teeth, 
nevertheless, although they may be much worn, are, with few 
exceptions, found to be in a sound and healthy condition. 
The gradual abrasion of the teeth is materially influenced by the 
nature of the food used. This is proved by the fact that the 
teeth of sailors, who, during the greater part of their lives, live 
upon hard biscuits, are often found to be much worn down by 
the constant friction produced by this diet. Among the wild 
tribes of Patagonia, it is by no means rare to see the upper teeth 
worn to the gums, though they are almost never decayed. This 
characteristic is common to nearly all races of indigenous 
Americans, and the like trait has been observed in collections 
of prehistoric crania from the same continent. All that can 
with any certainty be said about primitive man in Ireland is 
that he was present in the country in times very remote, and 
that he hunted the big horn and reindeer, as well as other animals 
still present with us. It has been suggested that the gigantic 
Irish deer, or big horn, and reindeer migrated, at stated seasons, 
from Britain to Ireland, across the frozen sea, during the 
Glacial Period, and the primitive flint-using folk advanced and 
retired with the icy mantle, either following the animals on which 
they subsisted, or driven backward by a superior race or races. 
Enough has been said to show that man's existence on Earth 
is to be reckoned by a lapse of time marked by geological epochs 
instead of by years or even by centuries. How long these various 
stages lasted, or by what steps man passed from the infancy of 
intelligence through the various gradations of culture of which 
we find traces, to his present condition, which may, in comparison 
with the preceding, be described as a condition of uniform pro- 
gress — these are questions which, as yet, we possess no means of 

This brief review of long past ages hovers on the border-line 
of many sciences; and if it belongs to any one in particular, 


it pertains rather to the domain of the geologist than to that of 
the archaeologist. Good results, however, often follow from what 
appear to be small beginnings, and science may receive a fresh im- 
petus from workers whose first efforts are looked upon by scientists 
as useless. It is difficult to confine research on any great subject 
to very strict lines : the picture requires a background ; the large- 
ness and complexity of the problem, its manifold ramifications, are 
very apparent, and insensibly lift the inquirer out of a narrow 
groove. Out of the alphabet of stone that lies around, one may form 
words, arrange them into sentences, and make them yield up the 
secrets of countless centuries ; confusion may be changed into 
order, and a new page of primitive history deciphered. The 
succession of races in Ireland and their kinship with the tribes 
that traversed the shores of the Mediterranean, the great Conti- 
nental waterways, and the Baltic littoral, are subjects that should 
excite interest, whilst the most interesting possibility is the 
insight which attentive research may give as to the real nature 
of things in the past. The basis of all science is the gathering 
of facts, and in this inquiry they have accumulated at a rate, in 
numbers, and in an importance quite unprecedented, so that we 
may soon see some far-reaching generalization appearing, which 
will extend our knowledge in a way we now hardly dare hope 
for. From modern exhaustive research we have learned much, 
yet problems arise on every side which give constant exercise 
to the speculative faculties, for up to the present a haze has 
shrouded the past history of the world, which, though now 
gradually but surely dispersing, still permits us to see but very 



Description of remains of ancient times should bo written in a simple manner — 
The first discovery of the art of producing fire — Climate of Ireland formerly 
more severe than at present — Wooded nature of the country — Great pro- 
gress of Archaeological Research — Early Settlers — Their l'rimitive Weapons 
— The Cave-Dwellers — The Caves of Ireland, not explored — Extinct Mam- 
malia : The Mammoth, the Gigantic Irish Deer, the Reindeer, the Grizzly 
Bear, the Common Bear, the Wild Horse, the Wild Boar, the Wolf, the 
Wolf- Dog— Extinct Birds. 

It is a rule of all writing that the author should express himself 
to the understanding of his readers, presupposing, however, in 
them a certain degree of familiarity with the subject under con- 
sideration, but not the possession of encyclopedic knowledge. 
" Forgotten generations live again, assume the bodily shapes 
they wore of old " — so sings the poet, but neither with this senti- 
ment, nor with the foregoing rule, does the Irish archreologist 
agree ; on the contrary, descriptions of ancient remains, whether 
those of weapons and implements, of stone or earthen forts, of 
graves and cemeteries, are clothed in a dialect of archteological 
jargon, only to be comprehended by the initiated, and certainly not 
to be understood by the average class of readers. An axe of stone, 
or of bronze, is styled a celt or a palstave ; brooches are de- 
signated fibulte or rnammillary fibulie ; rings, armillaj ; bells, 
crotals ; gold ornaments are called lunulre, minds, and bulhe ; 
a rude stone monument is known as a megalith ; a earn is a 
microlith, and an alignment of stones is a parallelitha ; dwellers 
in caves are called troglodytes — in fact, a spade is never called a 
spade, its being even styled an agricultural implement would be 
simplicity itself, in comparison with the existing use. 

The Irish aborigines lived a simple life, to use the mildest 
expression ; and to describe this, little, if any, technical 
phraseology is needed. Their requirements were few ; in fact, 
food may be said to have been their only necessity, with, per- 
haps, something in the way of skins for clothing, in addition to 
the hematite (an ore of iron of a red colour) or other pigment, 


with which they daubed themselves ; for man, for his mere 
existence, needs no more, civilization being a superfluity of un- 
necessary surroundings. It requires no very exalted or learned 
language to attempt a description of the countless generations 
which have lived, and passed away, without having had 
awakened in them any practical aspirations toward bettering 
their condition ; they must, however, have possessed, to a great 
degree, two important characteristics, the cunning necessary 
to acquire, and the courage necessary to hold what had been 
acquired, for in those days it was neither the reign of the 
classes, nor of the masses, but that of the individual, the days 
of the initiation of 

" . . . . the good old plan, 
That he should take who has the power, 
And he should keep who can." 

In a rude state of society in Ireland every man thought for 
himself and acted on his own judgment, but modern society de- 
stroys individuality. It is a common dogma of the age that all 
men are equal : we are taught it six days in the press, the 
seventh day from the pulpit ; but it is an inaccurate statement, 
for men are intellectually unequal, and will remain so until time 
shall be no more. These times in which liberty of thought is 
most loudly proclaimed, are precisely the times when least origi- 
nality is manifested. The thoughts of the majority become the 
law for all, arid an infringement of the customary ideal is resented 
by the majority who consider themselves insulted by anyone 
differing from them. The great difference between the English- 
man and the native Irishman is that the former is an individua- 
list, the latter a socialist. The Englishman manages his own 
business in his own way — and there is no better training than a 
state of society which obliges every unit to rely on himself alone 
-the Englishman works: the Irishman trusts to chance and 

Life, even in the earliest days, was lived much as it is now ; 
there were its cares, its pleasures, its solemn and its ludicrous 
aspects, its rivalries and its friendships, and it is apparent that 
the aborigines, with no requirements beyond mere food and 
shelter, passed, to their ideas, quite as enjoyable an existence 
as we do. However, to appreciate antiquity is one thing, to 
wish to have lived in those days is quite another, for no one 
who has led a luxurious life desires to descend to what, for 
him, would be severe hardship, squalor, and appalling wretched- 

It is thought by many archaeologists that the use of skins, as 
clothing, preceded the knowledge of fire, either as a means of 


comfort, or for the cooking of food. Burke defined man as " an 
animal that cooks his victuals," but in the first ages of the 
world's history this definition would have been inaccurate. The 
mystery of fire seems to have held a firm hold on the wonder 
of the infant-like mind of early man, and no matter how far 
we go back we generally find him in possession of fire, for very 
early in human life man, by means of a drill or of a flint, 
became the Prometheus to his own small heap of collected dried 
leaves and twigs. 

The fable of Prometheus is, it is alleged, but an adaptation 
of the Vedic myth, which depicts the god as a celestial flame, 
hid in a casket, from which he is compelled, by a superior power, 
to come forth. Even the name, Prometheus, is stated to be of 
Vedic origin, and recalls the process employed by early man to 
obtain fire. The kindling stick or paramantlut — hence, it is 
alleged, Prometheus — supplied with a twisted cord rolled round 
the superior portion, imparts a rotary motion to the stick alter- 
natively from left to right, and contrariwise. The stick revolves 
in a little hollow, formed at the point of intersection of two 
pieces of wood placed one above the other so as to form a cross, 
of which the extremities, bent at right angles, are firmly fixed. 
The entire apparatus was styled kit. The Egyptians wor- 
shipped Ptah, a tire-god who twisted the polar axes, as the savage 
twists his fire-stick (tig. 5). 

Captain Cook thus describes the Australian way of producing 
fire : — 

"Their method of producing fire is curious; they work 
one end of a stick into an obtuse point, and placing this upon 
a piece of dry wood, they turn the upright stick backwards 
and forwards very rapidly between their hands, till the fire is 

The Irish peasantry even still regard fire as the great pre- 
servative against witchcraft, for evil spirits have no power except 
in the dark, so the careful housewife places a live coal under the 
churn if the butter does not rise: she waves fire over an animal's 
head if the .beast seems sickly: when she lights a candle after 
dark, she crosses herself to ward off the evil spirits who are jost- 
ling against each other, and struggling to get out of the house in 
dread of the fire. The land steward of a country gentleman would 
not return home on a dark night without having a lighted sod 
of turf stuck on the end of his walking-stick for the purpose 
of warding off the "good people." In similar manner, Keppel 
states that a native of North Australia will not willingly go 
near the graves of the dead at night by himself ; when obliged 
to pass them, he carries a "fire stick" to keep off the spirits of 





The practice of producing kindling by friction was in exis- 
tence quite recently amongst the peasantry in the form of a 
charm or preventive against disease in cattle. When a swelling 
of the head or disease amongst cattle, called " big-head," ap- 
peared, every fire was extinguished in the townland on which it 
had broken out. The inhabitants then assembled at the affected 
farm to kindle what was called a " need-fire," which was done 
as follows : — Two men commenced to rub two sticks together 
till the friction produced a flame. It was hard work, each man 
rubbing in turn (fig. 6). When the sticks had ignited, they 
collected dry " scraws " (sods) covered with soot from the roofs 
of the dwelling-houses, to produce a great smoke. The affected 
cattle then had pieces of wood inserted in their mouths to keep 
them open, and the head was held over the smoke till water ran 
plentifully from mouth and nostrils, when the cure was com- 
pleted. Every fire that had been extinguished was then re- 
kindled from the "need-fire." This plan of producing fire was 
more effective than the hand-twisting process. The entire pro- 
ceedings were described by Mr. Bernard Bannon, of Cavan- 
carragh, near Enniskillen. When he died, about the year 1892, 
he was, it is stated, 100 years old. 

A piece of iron pyrites, in form a perfect cube, about the size 
of the ordinary die used in games of chance, was found, amongst 
calcined bones, and other remains, in a sepulchral cist, at 
Broughderg, county Tyrone, and proved, on trial, to be well 
adapted for the production of sparks from a flint. Objects of 
pyrites have sometimes been discovered in prehistoric sepulchres 
in Great Britain, in juxtaposition to pieces of flint, and are 
supposed, by some antiquarians, to have been employed by their 
former owners, as fire-producers. 

Primitive culinary utensils, in the form of rude stone griddles 
for baking purposes, were used, lately, in some mountainous parts 
of Kerry. They were fiat, circular-shaped stones, about one foot 
in diameter and an inch in thickness, with a projection to serve 
as a handle; the shape seems to have been dependent on the 
natural form of the stone selected, which was then moulded by a 
little dressing. This is one small link in the existing evidence of 
how long many of the most interesting usages of antiquity lingered 
on unnoticed amongst us. 

If reliance can be placed on the accounts of some ancient 
writers, it would appear that, so late as about 2000 years ago, 
an excessive degree of cold prevailed in the climate of Europe. 
The great number and extent of forests, lakes, and morasses, 
which, according to these authors, existed in those times, must 
have rendered the climate cold and moist. The forests have 
nearly all been felled and the stagnant water drained, thus 


producing a very considerable difference between the tempera- 
ture described as existing in these latitudes 2000 years ago, 
and that of the present day. What occurred on the Continent 
occurred also in Ireland, which, shaded with forests and 
abounding in marshes, must have had an atmosphere more 
frigid than if its soil were then, as now, freely exposed to solar 
influence. Owing to the disappearance of Erin's former leafy 
mantle, and the absence of pestilential exhalations from stagnant 
fens, its summers have become colder and its winters warmer 
than in those remote times. 

Although Ireland, in the Polished Stone Age, and in much 
later and even in Elizabethan times, was well wooded, there 
must have always been districts naturally bleak and bare, such 
as the barony of Burren, described by Ludlow, in 1652, as a 
country "where there is not water enough to drown a man, 
wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him ; 
which last is so scarce that the inhabitants steal it from one 

What a world of change we live in. Is it not an astonishing 
transformation to find that a tree is a strange and rare object 
in the landscape where formerly impenetrable brakes and woods 
existed? So rare, in fact, in some localities, that an anecdote, 
told in 177G, by Young, in his travels through Ireland, of parts 
of the county Mayo, is still applicable to many districts, and to 
many islands off the western coast. A countryman living in 
Erris, in which district not a single tree grew, left the place with 
his young son to go to Killala. On approaching the village, the 
youth saw a tree for the first time, and exclaimed : — " Oh, Lord! 
Father, what is that ! " 

At the commencement of the century the inhabitants of Tory 
Island had a superstitious objection to visit Ireland. Even when 
they approached its coasts while fishing, or when returning from 
piloting vessels, which, before the erection of the lighthouse, was 
a frequent occurrence, they never landed if it were possible to 
avoid doing so. The liev. Osar Otway gives some interesting 
particulars of the behaviour of a boat's crew which were driven 
ashore near Ards, where "they were seen putting some leaves 
and small branches of trees in their pockets to show on their 

If the population and cattle were withdrawn from the country, 
and only sufficient numbers left to represent those of early days, 
the land would be, in a generation, covered with a sylvan mantle. 
No one whose opportunities have allowed him to make the neces- 
sary observations can doubt that this would be the case : given 
the above conditions and the entire kingdom would be again 
covered with woods down to the water edge. There might be 


exceptions, with respect to particular or unfavourable localities, 
for it is a curious fact, that in the American forests vacant spaces 
are occasionally found, upon which, to all appearance, no trees 
have ever grown. Ireland remained well wooded until Elizabethan 
times, when large quantities of timber were felled for military 
exigencies, and the remainder was consumed in iron works, 
erected by enterprising English settlers. On the subject of this 
denudation of timber there is an ancient Irish saw : — 

" Ireland was thrice beneath the ploughshare, 
Thrice it was wood, and thrice it was bare." 

It would be of little utility to give even a synopsis of the 
various legends related of the peopling of Ireland before the flood. 
In later and more authentic authorities the boundaries of the 
territories occupied by the elder arrivals in the country are, as a 
rule, apparently undefined in the inland regions ; from this it may 
be inferred that, for a lengthened period, the central portion of 
Ireland was but sparsely inhabited owing to its dense forests. 

The Irish Annals being the favourite authority with Irish 
antiquarians, readers ought to have the benefit of the startling 
information that Caesar — not Julius Cfesar, but an alleged grand- 
daughter of Noah — landed in Ireland forty days before the Deluge 
with a colony of antediluvian Mormons, namely fifty girls and 
three men, who appear to have escaped the fate which overtook 
the rest of mankind; thus was Erin peopled. An old Bishop of 
Ferns is reputed to have shut up "Gulliver's Travels " with the 
sage remark, " Amusing, but I can't believe half the fellow 
says." A puzzled antiquarian might fairly arrive at a similar 
conclusion after perusing the narrative of the Irish chroniclers. 

The early depredators on the Irish coasts are, in Bardic tales, 
described as swarming throughout the German Ocean, their head- 
■ quarters being the Shetland Isles and the Hebrides. This extern 
force represented many tribes of Northern Europe, and appears 
to have made itself felt from a very remote period. To these 
rovers Erin presented many of the advantages that America, on 
its first discovery, displayed to European eyes — a sparse popula- 
tion, a good climate, a fertile soil, a seemingly boundless range of 
pasture lands, separated from each other, and sheltered by dense 
forests. There is an ancient genealogical table, or tree, preserved 
in an old Irish MS. in the Bodleian Library, in which the descent 
of some of the leaders of these early invaders is most minutely 
traced back to Noah. 0' Curry gravely designates this MS. a 
unique genealogical table. Most people will doubtless concur 
with his opinion. 

The remains of man, of his arts and industries, enable us to 
trace out, to some degree, the general nature of his everyday 


life by showing, not in a theoretical, but in a practical manner, 
the state of the people who occupied Erin before the beginning 
of authentic history ; they enable us to lift the veil that hitherto 
has concealed the Eld, and to realize, to a great extent, 
the physical past of the inhabitants. By a comparison of 
waifs of antiquity with kindred objects from other countries 
throughout the globe, conjectures can be formed as to the social 
state of Ireland during the pre-Christian period. Thus it be- 
comes possible to realize to ourselves the conditions of society 
through which the previous inhabitants of the land passed in 
long gone by ages, a condition of society more primitive than 
any of which we have at present an actual example in any 
portion of the globe ; in fact, in these relics and in archaic folk- 
lore we possess, to a great extent, a reliable record of the infancy 
of mankind. 

In the earliest ages of man's existence on the earth, weapons 
and implements were formed of the rudest materials, for only 
such were accessible ; wood, bone, horn, stone, and flint were 
employed before man was able to use metal for these purposes. 
The discovery of the principle of projecting a missile by the bow 
was one of the greatest advances made by primitive man, for 
cunning then supplied a weapon by which he made himself the 
undisputed master of animal life. We cannot even guess at the 
period of time during which the successive steps of this inven- 
tion were accomplished, yet the art of shooting with the bow 
became at length almost universal ; though the use of the bow 
is unknown to some present-day savage tribes ; for instance, to 
the aborigines of Australia (who, however, possess the boome- 
rang), and to the Maories of New Zealand. Although the use of 
the "bow throughout Europe seems to date back to a very remote 
period, yet nothing that can be identified positively as an arrow- 
head has, it is believed, been found in the gravels. As a 
rule, the older a flint implement, the larger it is, i.e., rude stone 
weapons of the Drift are of greater size than those of the Polished 
Stone Age. Reasoning on these lines we conclude that some 
Irish arrow-heads are probably older than those of Great Britain, 
for the former are, as a general rule, of larger size than the latter ; 
they are also found in greater abundance, particularly in the 
northern province ; yet how far this is owing to the use of the 
older and larger heads having come down to later times, and how 
far to the character of the flints produced in the country, it is 
difficult to decide. There is also greater relative abundance of 
some particular forms in Ireland, more especially of the barbed 
triangular arrow-heads without central stem; of the elongated 
form with stem and barbs, as well as of the lozenge-shaped arrow- 
heads which present rare varieties. Owing to the fragility of 


the material, barbed arrow-beads of bone are rare. Figs. 7, 8, 9 
were found by the writer. Such articles ought to be common 
enough, as, in olden days, there were probably quite as many 
arrow-tips made of bone as of flint. Fig. 7, formed of the split 
bone of a large mammal, was discovered in a rude stone monu- 
ment, near Sligo ; the convex and concave sides of its medullary 
canal' were very observable, and it is evident that the head was 
fastened to the shaft by a rivet, as the rivet-hole remains. Fig. 8 
was found on the site of one of the crannogs or lake-dwellings in 
Lough Talt, and fig. 9 on the site of a lake-dwelling in Lough 
Gill in the same county ; all three were originally barbed. A 
considerable number of objects of the class designated " bur- 
nishers " by Sir William Wilde, "wrist-guards" by Canon 
Greenwell, and " bracers" by Sir John Evans, have been found 
in Ireland. One example, five inches long, has a hole in each 

Fig. 7. 

Fin. S. 
Bone Arrow-beads. (Real size.; 

Kill. 9. 

end, and a raised edge round the ends on the upper surface ; 
others have two holes at each extremity. Though these articles 
belong to the later period of the Stone Age, or even to a time 
late in the Bronze Age, and are often found in prehistoric 
interments in England, their use is by no means certain. The 
most likely theory, that which at present holds the field, is, that 
they were used as " bracers," or " guards," to protect the left 
arm of the archer from the blow of the string, and they cer- 
tainly bear a strong family resemblance to those worn by archers 
of the present day for a similar purpose. 

The art of projecting stones from a sling appears to be of 
early origin, and continued in Ireland to a very late period ; for 
instance, in the year 1848, the Claddagh fishermen of Galway 
routed a considerable force of dragoons with showers of stones 


from slings. Casting pebbles from the sling was an amusement, 
and a mode of mob warfare almost peculiar at that time to the 
Claddagh men ; but since the famine the use of the sling has 
with them fallen into desuetude. They had long been celebrated 
for their skill in this ancient exercise, and were accustomed to 
hold regular competitions or slinging matches, and when a slinger 
was certain of hitting a shilling as far as it could be distinguished, 
he was held to be a " marksman." 

The missile, which, when launched by the hand, is not of 
necessity expected to be recovered by its owner, is made of less 
valuable material than that which the owner looks upon as con- 
nected with his person ; thus the arrow-head of flint is often 
contemporaneous with the period of iron ; the slight value of 
the material made it especially applicable for the manufacture 
of articles, which, when used, were not likely to be recovered. 

In collecting implements of flint an unlooked-for difficulty 
often occurs, owing to a superstition prevalent amongst the 
peasantry. Many of them believe that, when the flints have been 
boiled in water, the liquid is a certain cure of, and is a preservative 
against, sickness in human beings as well as in cattle, and that 
it restores to health those that are ailing, or, as they term it, 
" elf-shot." 

Mr. W. J. Knowles, m.r.i.a., secretary for county Antrim to 
the Council of the present Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, states 
that he knew instances where the possessor of a few flint imple- 
ments refused to part with them, as he found it more profitable 
to hire them out to neighbours, for the purpose of curing cattle, 
than it would be to sell them. This writer also remarks that, in 
reference to the employment of flint arrow-heads and spear-heads 
in curing cattle, he received recently an account from an aged 
man, who lives not far from Ballymena, of how the ceremony of 
cattle-curing was carried on in his young days : — 

" He had a neighbour, a very respectable farmer, who was a 
cow-doctor, and who had a considerable number of beautiful 
flint arrow-heads, by means of which he effected cures in the 
case of cattle which were ill. This cow-doctor invariably found 
that the animal was either ' elf-shot ' or ' dinted,' or it might be 
suffering from both troubles. When ' elf-shot,' I suspect the 
arrow had pierced the hide ; and when ' dinted,' I imagine there 
was only an indentation, which the doctor could feel as easily as 
the holes. When he was called in to see a cow which was ill, 
he would feel the hide all over, and find, or pretend to find, holes 
or indentations, and would call on anyone present to feel them. 
He would then assure the owner that he would very soon cure 
the cow. My informant told me that the man's usual expression 
when he found the holes was, in his own local language, ' Begor, 


we hae found the boy noo,' meaning that he had found the cause 
of the beast's ailment. Some gruel would now have to be pre- 
pared, into which he would put a few of his arrow-heads, a piece 
of silver, usually a sixpence, and he would also add some sooty 
matter which he had previously scraped from the bottom of the pot. 
When all had been boiled well together, and was ready for use, he 
would take a mouthful and blow it into the animal's ears, 
another mouthful and blow it over her back, and then he would 
give the remainder to the cow to drink, and would go away, 
assuring the owner that she would soon be better. I understand 
he was generally successful in effecting cures, and was held in 
high estimation as a cow-doctor. My informant said he was 
often sent for by Lord Mountcashel's agent, when he lived in 
Galgorm Castle, to prescribe for cattle which were ill. There 
must, however, have been sceptics in those days, as I am told 
that the poor cow-doctor was often jocularly asked to examine a 
cow that was in perfectly good health, and that there was con- 
siderable merriment when he pronounced her to be both ' elf-shot' 
and ' dinted.' " 

The number and wealth of English collectors have caused 
the trade of forging antiquities to flourish. It is a time-worn 
adage, very applicable to the case of collectors of antiquities and 
objects of virtu, that " demand creates supply." As soon as any 
class of objects is inquired for, in a short time they are forth- 
coming in almost any quantity. It is even said, by some ill- 
natured antiquarians, that when excavations are going on in 
London, and collectors are standing by on the watch for dis- 
coveries, that coins, encaustic tiles, and bronzes are exhumed 
under their very eyes, which, purchased from a neighbouring 
old-curiosity shop, had actually been so placed for the purpose 
of being thus found. 

Counterfeit flint " antiques " are by no means uncommon; it 
is stated that the Benn collection in Belfast is full of them. The 
most celebrated forger was, undoubtedly, the well-known character, 
" Flint- Jack." Born in the year 1816, of humble parentage, he, 
in after-life, went by a hundred alum's. The skill he displayed 
was such that, it is said, he included on his list of dupes the 
then curator of the British Museum. Jack, however, never 
succeeded in discovering the art of surface-chipping, which he 
declared was a " barbarous art" that had died with the flint- 
using folk. This well-known worked-flint forger conceived the 
idea of visiting Ireland, thinking that his English beats required 
a rest. He, accordingly, started heavily laden with antiquities 
for " the sons of Erin." He says he did well, but the sons of 
Erin were not his only victims, for on being asked if he had sold 
flints and other antiquities to the officials of museums, Jack 


indignantly replied, " Why, of course I did; they have lots of my 
things, and good things they are, too." 

in the year 1886 Mr. Knowles reported that a large number of 
counterfeit flint arrow-heads and other similar antiquities were for 
sale. ^Vithin three months several small collections were offered 
to him. In order to extract information from the person who 
exhibited them, Mr. Knowles looked over his wares, and, after 
a careful examination, pronounced them to be forgeries. This 
the dealer admitted, but excused himself by saying that he was 
not asking for them the market price of genuine arrow-heads, 
and spoke hopefully of being able to dispose of all he had. He 
stated that a dealer in Ballymena had sent to England within 
twelve months upwards of twenty pounds worth, and that another 
had been able to purchase a set of harness for his horse with the 
money received for forged flint implements. A dealer being 
remonstrated with for buying forged objects, replied that they 
"passed" — that is, they were purchased without question when 
they went to England, and as long as they sold, that was all he 
cared for. At that time almost every guide to the Giant's Cause- 
way had for sale a small quantity of these forged objects, some- 
times cleverly executed. Other forgeries consist of spurious oval 
tool-stones. Rolled boulders from the sea-shore, about three or 
four pounds in weight, are abraded at the ends, in imitation of 
genuine hammer stones, and are then pierced with a carpenter's 
" boring bit," so as to make them figure as hammers. A few 
small flint chisel-like objects, ground at the edge only, are also 
on the market, as well as a few very handsome and beautifully 
polished flint spear-heads, so cleverly worked that it is to be 
feared that, if the forger continues to receive support from 
England, he will make startling progress in his deceitful art. In 
fact, not long ago there occurred a keen debate over a forged 
spear-head, purchased by the secretary of an antiquarian society, 
as to whether the object was genuine or spurious. On many 
occasions of late years the attention of the public has been 
drawn to forgeries offered for sale, but till recently purchasers 
have not had much reason to complain, for though the cases 
in which spurious articles were exposed for sale were quite as 
plentiful as at present, everything was so unskilfully executed 
that the forgery was easily detected, even by the uninitiated, but 
now greater skill is being gradually brought to the work, though 
even now a forged object is rarely met with that would escape 
detection from a skilled observer. 

Fig. 10 is from a photograph of a modern maker of flint 
arrow-heads in the very act of fabricating his goods. "Very 
much depends upon the character of the flint selected for man- 
ipulation. As the finished article must have an aged look, a 


fresh unaltered flint would not answer the maker's purpose; 
therefore he carefully selects some of the indurated flints that 
occur where the chalk is in contact with the trap ; such flints 
are discoloured, and may be found of every shade from white to 
red, and objects made from them have the looked-for ' patina ' 
of 'age. If an ancient flint implement is broken, the ' patina ' 
will be found to coat the implement in lines parallel with the 
surface, but if a reproduction is broken, the colour of the material 

Fig. 10. 

A modern maker of Flint Arrow-heads, in the act of fabricating his goods. 

From a photograph by William Gray, m.r.i.a. 

is the same all through. The modern maker of arrow-heads 
selects a suitable flake of indurated flint, and holds it in a fold of 
cloth, his coat-collar or any other cloth, and with a sharp rough 
splinter of hard trap he presses against the edge of the flint and 
skilfully removes the material chip by chip, first from one side, 
then the other, until he forms his outline, and thus with 
marvellous rapidity he can turn out a scraper or arrow-head of 
any form or size." 

Pig. 1 1 is a collection of recent reproductions of the ancient 


forms of arrow-heads and flint axes made to meet the demand for 
Irish Antiquities. " This trade may be justified so long as the 
manufactured article is sold as a reproduction, and not as a 
genuine ancient Irish weapon ; but, unfortunately, the ignorance 
of collectors is such that they are left too often under the 
impression that the reproduction they have secured by purchase 
is really a genuine ancient weapon." 

Our public and private collections represent numerous and 
well-authenticated exhibits of antiquities ; here we have the rude 
flint implements used by the earliest arrivals on our shores ; next 
evidence of the metallurgic skill developed at a later period in 
the fabrication of copper or bronze axes, swords, and various 
weapons ; finally, personal ornaments formed of precious or other 

Fig. 11. 

Recent reproductions of ancient forms of Flint Arrow-heads and 
Axes. About one-quarter real size. From a photograph by 
William Gray, m.r.i.a. 

metal, which attest the increased skill of the inhabitants. All 
these represent an unerring exposition of the manners and arts 
of an early race. 

The interest manifested during recent years in the prosecu- 
tion of antiquarian research is very remarkable. Towards the 
closo of the last and the commencement of the present century, 
studies of this nature were confined to a very limited circle. The 
records, however, which have been handed down to us are in- 
creasing in scientific estimation, and we begin to value the 
importance of these labours. Every attempt to depict the social 
and mental condition of early man must necessarily be largely 


conjectural, but great benefits have been conferred by the investi- 
gations of the old school of antiquarians ; for although their 
deductions may have been in many instances fallacious, yet the 
facts which they have recorded are of the greatest importance. 
The traces left by the former inhabitants of the country resemble 
the pages of an old manuscript : some are easily decipherable, 
whilst others are very indistinct ; however, when read as a 
whole, enough remains to enable us to form an outline of ancient 
manners, customs, and superstitions. Archaeological writers 
have left behind them ineffaceable monuments in their works, 
in which they will always, in one sense, survive; it is good, there- 
fore, to follow their example, and carry on their labours, gather- 
ing in, no matter in what diminutive quantities, stores of fresh 
knowledge ; for, if truth be eternal, we shall, so long as archaeo- 
logical truth is recorded, have the very remote chance of being 
reckoned amongst these immortals also ! 

Many readers may have read works treating of some one or 
more epochs included in the past, of which Ireland has been the 
scene, but up to the present this lengthened period has not been 
treated of as a whole. During a portion of the early periods 
passed by man on Earth, caves or rock-shelters formed his dwell- 
ing-places, and from excavations in them we can draw some 
inferences as to his condition. In Ireland, as elsewhere, there 
is, it is thought by some, a link missing in the gradual develop- 
ment of man. The gap is between the Old and the New Stone Age, 
between the rough coarse implements from the gravel-drift, and 
those of the smaller, finer chipped, and subsequently polished 
newer Stone Age. This missing link may, in Ireland, be revealed 
by a systematic exploration of eaves and of the traces left in 
them by their former inhabitants. Many Continental archaeo- 
logists, however, deny that there is, in a general wav, anv great 
gap between the Eude Stone Age and the Polished Stone Age 

At the commencement of a new science, eager votaries build 
up work which has to be undone as soon as systematic effort is 
commenced ; not only has the student to undo the futile work 
that obstructs scientific inquiry, but, after pulling down the 
edifice, he has to attempt its rebuilding. 'Withiii the last few 
years local antiquarian societies, placed upon a practical working 
basis, have arisen, it may almost be said, all over the kingdom" 
their members embracing men of all classes, professions, and 
creeds. In Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Kildare, Dublin, and 
Belfast, as well as other places of less importance, wherever, in 
fact, the thoughtful reading public are in numbers, explorations, 
the outcome of individual and collective efforts, have been insti- 
tuted, and archreological literature has been enriched by many 


interesting and instructive papers. The trend of all modern 
scientific effort is to discover from the drift, from caves, and 
middens, and other sites frequented by primitive man, more precise 
acquaintance with the manners and customs of long past ages, 
and on every side investigation has proved fruitful. There are 
many secrets of the past belonging to our land, which are yet 
unravelled, because traces of them are so faint as to be scarcely 
perceptible ; it is to the examination of these we should direct 
our attention. Day by day our feet unconsciously tread the 
silent relics of time, and from the very dust we ought to be able 
to conjure up visions of the past, and so commune with the in- 
habitants of bygone ages. Careful study begets knowledge, and 
knowledge increases knowledge. Much, which to the uninitiated 
appears unaccountable, gradually assumes its right place in 
archaeological sequence, new trains of reasoning are created, 
connecting links are discovered where all before was in apparent 
disorder, and a sound basis of facts is obtained upon which a 
new and exact science can be built. 

It has been established, on incontrovertible evidence, that 
worked Hints have been discovered under a considerable depth 
of undisturbed alluvial gravel in France, Britain, and the north 
of Ireland ; also that implements of flint and stone have been 
found in the earthen or stalagmitic floors of caverns, in conjunc- 
tion with the bones of animals long extinct in those latitudes — 
such as the lion, tiger, bear, hyena, rhinoceros, elephant, hippo- 
potamus, mammoth, reindeer, and the megaceros, which may be 
better described as the big-horn, or gigantic Irish deer. Now, 
if the handiwork of man is found associated with the remains of 
these extinct Mammalia, it follows, as a simple inference, that 
he existed contemporaneously with them, and most probably mi- 
grated, as they did, over land which then formed a portion of the 
European continent, but which has since been eroded by the sea. 
This tends to suggest the theory that a very primitive race had 
overspread the continent of Europe long before the advent of the 
tribes and mixed peoples that now inhabit it, a race which 
must have at last reached Ireland, where they may have carved 
those rude devices on the face of natural rocks, that still form an 
enigma to the antiquary, who may also have reared, at a later 
date, the earliest of our rude stone monuments, and the most 
primitive of our lake-dwellings. While admitting that imple- 
ments found in the drift are the rude hatchets and knives of men 
who inhabited Europe towards the end of the Glacial Period, 
many writers of the old school argue that it would be as unsafe 
to draw from these weapons inferences as to the condition of 
man in the different countries of the Continent, at the time of 
their deposition, as it would be nowadays to draw conclusions 


from the habits and arts of savage tribes, as to the present 
civilization of the United Kingdom. But at the time under 
review there existed a dead level of savagery ; for it may be said, 
that there is not a district of the Earth that can be pointed to, 
which does not show, by rude flint implements buried in its soil, 
the savage status of its first inhabitants. If, as is asserted by 
some, these savages were the degenerated descendants of civilized 
tribes or nations, the burden of proof lies on those making the 
assertion. Almost all the countries famed in ancient history as 
seats of civilization, show, like other and less celebrated regions, 
traces of an archaic Stone Age ; even Egypt has, at last, been 
brought into line with the rest, and furnishes evidences demon- 
strating the former prevalence of a condition of primitive society 
analogous to the state of modern savage tribes. 

Some races have indeed retrograded, and have returned to a 
comparatively, degraded and degenerate state, but scarcely to a 
state of savagery. It has been aUeged by many writers that, on 
attaining the culminating point of culture, the destiny of all 
races is to decline and decay ; that, like individuals, races in their 
old age return to the early condition of childhood. But the simile 
is not apposite. The catastrophe which alters or terminates the 
upward career of nations, generally comes from without, not from 
within, from a stronger race, or from contact with a superior 
civilization, as, for example, was the case with the Greeks, the 
Bomans, the Fellaheen of Egypt in the Old World, the Mexicans 
and Peruvians in the New World, and, the latest example, the 
Chinese in the East. In all these nations, although their 
culture, at the time of their overthrow, is alleged by modern 
writers to have been corrupt, the shock under which they sank 
came not from within, but from without. 

The absence of very primitive human remains in Ireland 
furnishes a problem capable of an easy solution. In early times 
savage man had probably no more idea of the sanctity which 
nowadays surrounds the dead, than had the wild beasts by which 
he was environed. We can only expect to meet with his osseous 
remains under exceptional circumstances at least, until the period 
is reached when his body was placed in a sepulchre protected 
overhead (as in the dolmen or cromleac, I.e., a rude stone monu- 
ment) from the effects of weather, and by the side stones from 
the ravages of beasts of prey. No discoveries of osseous human 
remains have as yet been recorded, as made in the gravel-drift in 
Ireland ; and it is extremely unlikely that, if found, they will be 
met with except in some very exceptional case, for relic-bearing 
gravel beds do not contain traces of any animal so diminutive as 
man, since the smaller the animal is the more likely it is that the 
skeleton will be obliterated. With the exception of rude flint drift 


implements, it may be said that pre-historic remains in Ireland, 
as at present known, commence with the later Stone Period, when 
man hunted the great Irish big-horn and the reindeer. 

Although many people, from actual observation or reading, 
are well acquainted with the caves of America, the Continent, 
and England, few are well informed as to the existence of large 
and picturesque caves in Ireland. In the southern and central 
counties, there are the extensive caverns of Mitchelstown, county 
Cork; those in the county Waterford, remarkable for the dis- 
coveries of bones of extinct Irish animals, and of stone imple- 
ments, and the cave of Dunmore, in Kilkenny, which demands 
attention, both from its size and from its mention in Irish history. 
In the North of Ireland, there are caverns which have yielded 
traces of pre-historic man, as have also the limestone caves of 
Fermanagh ; these latter, however, contain implements showing 
a merging of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. All these caves 
occur in limestone rock — either in the newer, or in the older Car- 
boniferous limestone, usually known as mountain limestone — more 
especially in the uppermost beds. It might therefore be con- 
fidently expected that we should meet with many caves in the 
West of Ireland, whore the Upper limestone is a considerable and 
important geological formation. 

In the Sligo district, the majestic Benbulbin, the rugged 
valley of Gleniff, and the beautiful vales of Glencar and Glonade 
are carved out of this material, while stretching southward, on both 
sides of the northern continuation of the Ox Mountains, is a low 
undulating plain of the lower beds of limestone, rarely rising to 
any considerable elevation except at Kesh and Knocknashee, 
where the uppermost beds again are found. Limestone, being 
easily dissolved by rain water, contains numerous cavities and 
fissures, which, enlarging in the course of time, develop into 
caves ; and the explorer often meets with a nature-carving of rare 
beauty, a shelter-cave, or a gigantic cleft, once roofed in, but now- 
broken down, and hollowed out by the constant dropping that 
will wear away even stone. Hardly a valley can be explored, 
hardly a cliff can be climbed, where such cavities are not met; 
along the coasts they frequently occur, but are there generally 
devoid of antiquarian interest. Many of the inland caves have 
been explored by archasologists, but the greater number still invite 

The most important caves of this limestone district are 
those of Kesh; Killasnet, at the head of the valley of Glencar; 
and Gleniff, on the north side of Benbulbin, near Ballin- 

The caves of Kesh, half way up the mountain of that name, 
lie to the south-east of Ballymote. A steep ascent of about 500 



feet leads to a perpendicular face of rock which presents no bad 
resemblance to the side of some ancient fortification, time-worn 
and encrusted with ivy. This precipice rises some sixty feet, and 
in it, a little above the junction of the Middle and the Upper lime- 
stone, are numerous openings. Explorations, up to the present, 
have been devoid of archaeological interest; still some of the 
cavities may, on closer examination, yield important results. 
None of them are particularly large ; the most important cave, at 
least twenty feet high, has a small chamber to the left ; and to the 
right one can penetrate for a considerable distance along a low 
corridor; there are also many small low lateral passages very 
difficult to explore to their termination. These caves will well 
repay a visit, but fine dry weather should be chosen, as the clayey 
deposit forming the floor, when saturated by the dripping from 
the roof, is not a pleasant substance to crawl over. 

A cavern, be it ever so smaU, is, in Ireland, fabled to extend 
an immense distance into the bowels of the Earth, and the caves 
of Kesh are no exception to the rule. A guide recently recounted 
the legend attached to the locality, in almost the identical words 
of Beranger, written more than a century ago, namely, that the 
cavern communicated with another, some twenty-five miles 
distant, called "the Hell-Mouth Door of Ireland." The wife of 
a farmer, near this entrance to the nether regions, possessed an 
unruly calf, which she could never drive home unless by holding 
it by the tail. One day it tried to escape, and dragged the woman 
into " the Hell-Mouth Door." Unable to hold back the calf, she 
ran after it without relaxing her grasp, until she emerged again, 
in the light of day, at the entrance of the caves of Kesh. 

The caves of Gleniff, the finest in the Sligo district, occur 
near the summit of the northern edge of the Benbulbin range, 
overshadowing the deep valley of Gleniff, and are only reached 
after a toilsome climb of some 1200 feet, up a steep grassy slope, 
followed by a talus of loose stones; then comes a precipitous face 
of rock, some forty feet high; overcoming this, and a highly 
inclined steep above the entrance, an immense natural arch, 
about forty feet high and sixty wide, is reached. On the 
Ordnance Map the cavity is marked as " Dermod and Grama's 
Bed," and it is one of the few examples in which the legend of 
the runaway couple is connected with any object save a rude 
stone monument. 

The guide recounted the story, which differs from that usually 
current amongst the peasantry in representing the cavern as the 
permanent residence of Finn MacCool and his faithless wife, and 
not the mere shelter for the night utilised by Dermod and Grania 
whilst the fugitive couple were flying from the pursuit of the 
justly enraged Finn. Grania, according to this legend, possessed 


not only the witchery of beauty, but the practical gift of witch- 
craft, and at such times as she desired to enjoy the society of 
Dermod, she could lay a spell upon her husband, compelling him, 
at one time, to gather seaweed, and burn kelp on the seashore, at 
another to cut rushes in the valley to make mats; and again often 
sending him to distant pasturages after supposititious strayed 
cattle. The guide expressed himself uncertain as to the final 
result of this intrigue; he only knew that it ended in there 
being "a terrible row entirely " in the mountain cavern. 

The candles and lamps, of which a good supply should be 
taken, being lighted, the exploration may be commenced. An 
opening to the left leads from the outsr cavern, which is large, 
but of no great beauty, into a chamber of immense proportions; 
sometimes a light flashed through the gloom on a piece of 
jutting rock fully fifty feet above, and still higher were patches 
of blacker darkness indicating further heights; whilst underfoot, 
as the lights flitted round, great depths and abysses were re- 
vealed, demonstrating the need of a good supply of ropes for their 
exploration. Stalactites hung like huge petrified bunches of 
grapes from the roof, and the walls and overhanging ledges ex- 
hibited stone icicles and massive coatings of stalagmite in every 
fantastic form that nature can devise. The accumulation of 
immense blocks of rock fallen from the roof renders a thorough 
archieological exploration out of the question. 

To the right is a narrow but lofty chamber. Entering this 
presently the walls contract and lower, and a gallery is formed ; 
close to the entrance is a curious mass of stalagmite, some- 
what resembling a colossal-shaped female figure, from this point 
the gallery contracts still more, becoming in places very pre- 
cipitous and difficult of passage, and leading again into the 

To the left of the entrance arch, a gallery, some eight feet wide 
and 100 feet long, with a winding and well -gravelled pathway of 
natural formation, opens out on the face of the cliff, and affords 
a magnificent panorama of the country. Far away on the 
horizon, the amphitheatre of the great cliffs of the Donegal coast 
is, on a clear day, distinctly visible. Close to the opening a 
steeple-shaped pinnacle rears itself in solitary grandeur over a 
precipice of about 200 feet. 

These caves of Gleniff were certainly inhabited in former 
times. Some rude flint flakes and a bronze axe, now in the 
Science and Art Museum, Dublin, were found here under a mass 
of stalagmite, and, under the present floor of the cavern, bones of 
recent animals were dug up. It may, however, be said that in 
Ireland no startling discovery of cave-remains has as yet been 
made ; but the most important inferences drawn by Ussher, Adams, 

E 2 


and Kinahan, from the facts discovered by them in the explora- 
tions of the cavern of Ballynamintra (figs. 12 and 13), near 
Dungarvan, are as follows:- „-,.,.. ■ -, 

The history of the cave is divided into five distinct periods. 
During the first, the cavern was excavated by aqueous agency. In 
the second, the flow of water ceased, the cave became com- 
paratively dry, was inhabited by bears, and a stalagmite floor was 
deposited— by infiltration from above— over the gravel which had 
been washed in by the stream. During the third period, the 
stalagmite floor was, from some cause, partially broken up, and 
in places a pale sandy earth was intruded, enveloping the broken 
stalagmite, and the animal remains. In the fourth period there 
was an accumulation of earth, and other deposits, and the cave 
was inhabited by men who were contemporaneous with the Great 

Fig. 12. 

General View of the Entrance to the Cave of Ballynamintra. from near the Cappagh 
Railway Station. After a sketch Iry G. H. Kinahan, -M.R.1.A-, in the Trans 
actions, Royal Dublin Society. 

Irish Deer. In the fifth period of the history of the cave, its in- 
habitants used carved bone implements and polished stone hatchets, 
traces of the Great Deer and Bear disappear, giving place to those 
of domesticated animals. 

That the deposition of the two upper earthen strata was 
gradual and successive is clearly shown by the layers, formed 
one above the other. This is corroborated by the sequence of 
the animal remains, as well as by the dissimilar colouring of the 
bones — the great Irish deer being the characteristic animal of 
the former stratum, whilst domesticated animals were most 
plentiful in the latter. These facts show that the human 
remains, implements, and charcoal-bed, found with the remains 
of the extinct deer, were deposited there contemporaneously 
with them. The charcoal and calcareous seams mark successive 



floors during the slow accumulation of a refuse-heap, when man 
was the chief occupant of the cave. The condition of the larger 
bones, especially those of the great deer, is an additional proof 
of the human occupation of the cave at the time when those 
animals lived ; and the chipped hammer-stones found in the 
same stratum were, in all probability, the very implements with 
which the bones were broken and split along their length. How 
the fragments of human bones were mixed with the stone imple- 
ments and animal remains, the explorers did not venture to 

The caves of Knockmore, county Fermanagh (fig 14), were 
explored by Mr. T. Plunkett, who has given a long enumeration of 
the Mammalia and other relics found in them; some authorities, 
however, believe that the remains are quite recent. With regard 


I'm. 13. 

Ucneral View of the Country around the Ballynamiutra lave, showing Hat ground 
margined with scarps, representing, an ancient river bed or estuary. Houses, 
fences, and plantings omitted. 

to these deposits, Mr. Plunkett is, however, of opinion that there 
is strong geological and other evidence, bearing witness to the 
presence and operation of ice in the surrounding district since 
the cave-remains were deposited. If this opinion be correct, it 
would appear that the ancient cave-dwellers of Fermanagh were 
a race passing an every-day existence somewhat similar to that 
of the inhabitants of the Arctic regions of the present day, and 
that they lived in the summer season in places which, in the 
winter months, were enveloped in a thick mantle of ice. 

Dr. Joyce states that all our recent native animals have 
been commemorated in names of places, and that by a study of 
these local names we can tell what animals formerly abounded, 
and that we are able thus to identify the very spots resorted to 
by each particular kind. We now, however, live in a zoologically 


impoverished age, from which many of the largest and finest 
animals, such as the mammoth and gigantic deer, have but 
recently disappeared. In a much smaller sphere of animal life 
a slight difference in size has had an effect quite beyond any- 
thing that might have been anticipated in the disparity in 
physical powers. The extinction of the indigenous black rat 
in Ireland has usually been ascribed to the superior strength 
and aggressive character of the invading and foreign rat, but 
it can with more probability be accounted for by the inferior 
intelligence possessed by the extirpated animal. 

The dominance of man over the Animal Kingdom may mark the 
beginning of a new geological period, but there is no gap in time, 
only a slight change in life to announce the mastery of man, and 
to earmark his reign from earlier epochs in the world's life-history. 

The present era is also characterised by the disappearance or 
removal of those animals least ministering to the necessities and 
uses of man, as well as by the progressive melioration and 
sporadic increase of animals specially adapted to his service and 
support. The law of nature extends even to the occasional 
displacement of indigenous flora by introduced plants. Im- 
provement and exaltation of type seem essential conditions of 
continuity, for wherever improvement is arrested or undeveloped 
then extinction looms in the distance. 

A huge, formless, and chameleon-like monster is believed by 
the peasantry of Ireland, and of the Highlands of Scotland, to 
frequent the lonely glens and morasses of wild and mountainous 
districts. May not this strange superstition be a lingering remi- 
niscence of the former presence of the mammoth in these lati- 
tudes ? This indistinctness of form is very well exemplified in 
the legend recounted of the Pooka that dwells in a natural cave 
at the base of a hill on which stands the Dun of Clochanpooka. 
This eccentric Kilkenny spirit frequently assumes the strange 
shape of an enormous fleece of wool, and issuing from the cavern 
rolls over the ground with astonishing speed, uttering a mysteri- 
ous buzzing sound which inspires terror in all who hear it. A 
venerable peasant of the district declared that he had witnessed 
this apparition, and noticed the terror, in both man and beast, 
which its approach excited. Indistinctness, like that of an 
imperfectly remembered dream, seems to constitute the chief 
characteristic of the Pooka, it being variously described as a 
gigantic bull with very long horns, a horse, a goat, a bird, and 
it is sometimes styled the O'runi/tirh, or hairy spirit. Spenser 
cautions his readers not to allow 

"... tho Pouke, nor other evill sprights 
Fray us with things th;it be not." 


The Pooka is also described as a frisky mischievous being, a 
sturdy pony, and in places he even passes as a donkey having a 
great turn for humour and practical joking. He lies in wait for 
the belated traveller, returning home, by wild unfrequented 
mountain paths, or across bogs, for the Pooka is especially 
connected with bogs, marshes, and water, and is in general 
represented as shaking the dripping ooze from his hairy hide. The 
Pooka crouches in the path of his victim, and rising suddenly 
between his legs he hoists the unlucky pedestrian on his back, 
and carries him away at railway speed (fig 15). The first crow- 
ing of the cock frees the involuntary rider who is flung from 

the Pooka's 
back into some 
deep muddy 
pond. The 
Pooka is often 
considered as 
identical with 
the modern 
devil, and the 
expr e s si on 
" playing old 
ralent to " playing 
the Devil," or doing something very 
wild. On the other hand, the Pooka 
exhibits occasionally an amiable 
side of his character. He is re- 
ported to sometimes commiserate 
the lot of a benighted wayfarer, to 
hoist him on his back, and safely 
convey him many a mile to his 
cabin. An odd notion amongst the 
peasantry, connected with the Pooka, causes ' them to tell their 
children, after Michaelmas Day, not to eat blackberries, as they 
attribute the decay in them, which commences about that time, 
to the spleen of the Pooka. 

The disappearance of all recollections of a Stone Age is 
paralleled_ by the oblivion of the origin of the remains of the 
great extinct animals which were contemporary with man. 
Everywhere fossil bones of elephants and rhinoceros are both in 
the ancient and modem worlds attributed to monsters and giants. 
The fossil bones strewn over some of the lower ranges of 
the Himalayas are believed by the natives to have belonged 
to the gigantic Eakshasas of Indian mythology killed by Incha. 
Just in the same way, North American Indians regard the 
great bones of Tertiary mammals, occasionally disclosed to view 

Fig. 15. 

The Pooka and its involuntary rider. 
From Mr. and Mrs. Hall's "Ireland." 


on the precipitous sides of gullies, as those of their ancestors. 
Augustine, in his chapter on " The Lives and Sizes of the 
Antediluvians" (De Civitate Dei, xv. 9), says: — 

" Concerning the magnitude of their bodies, the graves laid 
bare by age or the force of rivers and various accidents, especially 
convict the incredulous where they have come to light, or where 
the bones of the dead of incredible magnitude have fallen. I 
have seen, and not I alone, on the shore of Utica, so huge a 
molar tooth of a man, that were it cut up into small models of 
teeth like ours, it would seem enough to make a hundred of them. 
But this I should think had belonged to some giant, for beside 
that the bodies of all men were then much larger than ours, the 
giants again far exceeding the rest." 

Kirby, in his Wonderful mid Kn-ontriv Museum, published in 
1820, devotes a chapter to a description of " Gigantic Remains," 
and states that " all the public prints make mention of an extra- 
ordinary monument of gigantic human stature, found by two 
labourers in Leixlip Churchyard, on the 10th July, 1812. It 
appeared to have belonged to a man of not less than ten feet in 
height, and is believed to be the same mentioned by Keating — 
Phelim OTool, buried in Leixlip Churchyard, near the Salmon 
Leap, one thousand two hundred and fifty years ago. In the 
place was found a large finger-ring of pure gold. There was no 
inscriptions or characters of any kind upon it. One of the teeth 
is said to have been as large as an ordinary forefinger." This 
was probably another discovery of mammoth bones. 

The following is an extract from the Stnmd Mat/a-.ine for 
December, 1895 : let the reader judge as to the genuineness 
of the fossilized Irish giant, which is thus described : — 

"Pre-eminent among the most extraordinary articles ever 
held by a railway company is the fossilized Irish giant, which is 
at this moment lying at the London and North-Western Railway 
Company's Broad-street goods depot, and a photograph of which 
is reproduced here (fig. 10). This monstrous figure is reputed to 
have been dug up by a Mr. Dyer whilst prospecting for iron ore in 
Co. Antrim. The principal measurements are : — Entire length, 
12ft. 2in. ; girth of chest, 6ft. ; and length of arms, 4ft. 
Gin. There are six toes on the right foot. The gross weight is 
2 tons 15 cwt. ; so that it took half a dozen men and a powerful 
crane to place this article of lost property in position for the 
Straml Mui/n-Jiie artist. Dyer, after showing the giant in 
Dublin, came to England with his queer find and exhibited it in 
Liverpool and Manchester at sixpence ahead, attracting scientific 
men as well as gaping sightseers. Business increased and the 
showman induced a man named Kershaw to purchase a share in 
the concern. In 187G, Dyer sent this giant from Manchester to 


London by rail ; the sum of £i 2s. U. being charged for carriage 
by the company, but never paid. Evidently Kershaw knew 
nothing of the removal of the ' show,' for when he discovered it 
he followed in hot haste, and, through a firm of London solicitors, 
moved the Court of Chancery to issue an order restraining the 

i'io. li>. 

' Fossilized Irish Giant." Photograph from Strand Magazine. 

company from parting with the giant, until the action between 
Dyer and himself to determine the ownership was disposed of. 
The action was never brought to an issue." 

Proofs of the existence of the mammoth in Ireland, possibly in 
both Pre- and Post-Glacial times, while most complete, point, as 
far as they go, to the presumption that it did not occur in great 


numbers, not for instance in such quantities as in a clay deposit 
near the sea of Azof, 50 feet in thickness, which is full of mam- 
moth bones, nor in the alluvial deposits of clay and mud, spread 
largely over the northern portions of Siberia. Mammoth remains 
occur in greatest quantity along the banks of the great rivers 
which drain this area, and the bones become more numerous the 
further the rivers are followed towards their mouth, until com- 
pletely frozen carcases are found. The well-known preservative 
properties of ice were strikingly illustrated by the discovery, on 
the shores of Lake Oncoul, in Siberia, of a carcase of the mam- 
moth in a perfect state, and so well refrigerated that, when 
thawed, the dogs of the neighbourhood devoured its flesh. 
Again, in 184G, the summer in Siberia had been unusually hot. 
the frozen marshes which extend along each side of the river 
Indigirka were thawed, and a perfectly preserved carcase of a 
mammoth floated down the stream. This monster had most 
probably met his death during a blizzard some thousands of years 
ago, by sinking into the deep snow and mud of the morasses ; 
the body was then frozen over, and thus remained until the 
exceptional summer's heat melted its icy prison (fig. 17). This 
discovery solved the question as to how this huge creature existed 
in such an inhospitable country, for the presence in its stomach 
of young shoots of fir and pine and fir cones, all in a chewed 
state, proved that it fed on vegetation such as is yet found in 
the woods of northern Siberia. From the effects of the climate, 
the mammoth was protected by his thick woolly coat. The 
structure of its teeth resembles those of the reindeer and musk ox. 

The specimen, represented by fig. 1H, from an old engraving, 
is stated to be an animal that probably attained an immense age, 
as its tusks are so curved as to be of little use. " The hair that 
still remains on the skin of the St. Petersburg specimen is of the 
colour of the camel, very thick set, and curled in locks. Bristles 
of a dark colour are interspersed, some reddish and some nearly 
black. The colour of the skin is a dull black, as in living ele- 
phants." With regard to this interesting and important discovery, 
the Eev. H. N. Hutchinson remarks that " truly there is nothing 
new under the sun, and the present highly useful method of 
freezing meat, and bringing it over from America or New Zea- 
land, to add to our insufficient home supplies, is but a resort to 
a process employed by nature long before the age of steamships, 
and perhaps even before the appearance of man on Earth." 

To students of folklore, legends regarding the mammoth are 
of great interest, and to some extent this interest must extend to 
men of science, for, as pointed out by the writer already quoted, 
one of the many points of interest in the study of this animal is 
that paheontology may be said to have been founded on the 



mammoth. " Cuvier, the illustrious founder of the science of 
organic remains, was enabled by his accurate and minute know- 
ledge of the structure of living animals, to prove to his astonished 
contemporaries that the mammoth bones and teeth, so plentifully 
discovered in Europe, were not such as could have belonged to 
any living elephant, and consequently that there must have 
existed, at some previous period of the world's history, an 
elephant of a different kind and quite unknown to naturalists." 
The most important discovery of mammoth remains in Ireland 
was made in a limestone breccia, in the Shandon Cave, near 
Dungarvan, county Waterford, associated with bones of the 
grizzly bear, wolf, reindeer, wild horse, and other animals ; from 

Fin. IS. 
Mammoth with curved tusks. l'Voin an old engraving. 

the completeness of one of the mammoth skeletons, the finimal 
must have made its way into the cave to die. Besides these 
remains, others have been found in the counties of Cavan, (lal- 
way, and Antrim. The discovery in Cavan is recorded in the 
Philtixn/thiriil Transactions for the year 1715, and is one of the 
first well-authenticated discoveries of mammoth remains in the 
British Isles; the teeth were figured and described by Dr. Thomas 
Molyneux. The Galway specimen consists of a nearly perfect 
humerus dredged up in Gahvay Bay. The Antrim specimens 
consist of teeth obtained at Ballyrudder, and also at Corncastle, 
iu a stratum of gravel, containing marine shells of Post-Tertiary 


The great Irish deer (fig. 19) is, after the mammoth, one of the 
noblest representatives of the extinct Mammalia of Ireland. The 
largest stags were about seven feet in height, whilst the expanse 
of their antlers, in some cases, attained to upwards of twelve 
feet. The Eev. H. N. Hutchinson is of opinion that, " like all 
existing deer, the animal shed its antlers periodically, and such 
shed antlers have been found. When it is recollected that .all 
the osseous matter of which they are composed must have been 
drawn from the blood carried along certain arteries to the head 
in the course of a few months, our wonder may well be excited 
at the vigorous circulation that took place in these parts. In 
the red deer, the antlers, weighing about 24 lbs., are developed in 
the course of about ten weeks ; but what is that compared to the 
growth of over 80 lbs. weight in some three or four months ? " 

Although the bones of this gigantic deer are found in recent 
deposits, both in England and on the Continent ; yet, judging 
by the number of specimens discovered, Ireland would appear to 
have been its favourite habitat. Their plentifulness in Ireland 
may, perhaps, be attributable to the comparative scarcity of its 
natural enemies, the larger carnivora. 

Its remains are also found in the Isle of Man. The fact 
that the huge creature was formerly a member of the fauna of 
this small island, and the most patriotic Manxman will hardly 
deny that it is small, is very interesting, for large animals need 
a wide expanse of country to roam over. We can only conclude 
that, at the period the deer existed, the Isle of Man formed part of 
the continent of Europe, was connected with both Great Britain 
and Ireland, and that the Channel and the Irish Sea were either 
partly or wholly dry land ; but on the other hand, if this be so, 
how are we to account for the absence in Ireland of the larger 
carnivora ? 

One of the evidences that this animal was contemporary with 
man rests on the discovery of its bones in a very broken state, 
in the cave of Ballynamintra, 2nd in company with stone 
implements and human remains. The bones of this deer and 
other mammals, when recovered from subturbary deposits and 
exposed to the air, are apt to crack in the direction of the long 
axis, but the " sun cracks " as they are termed, rarely penetrate 
the entire thickness, nor is there a splintering into fragments 
which cave-bones generally exhibit. B. J. Ussher, the explorer 
of the Ballynamintra cavern, states that the most remarkable 
feature was the number of long bones, " split longitudinallv, 
with evidence of violent blows of percussion, as evidenced by 
longitudinal fractures, such as the femur, tibia, and humerus, 
for there is not a long bone of the Irish elk which has not been 
split lengthways, or reduced to angular splinters. To have 

— u 

c - 


-- " - 


accomplished this, great force was required, and that force must 
have been exerted along the long axis of the shaft. The absence 
of the lion and hyena, leaving the bear and wolf as the only 
large members of the order hitherto identified from Irish 
deposits, renders it unlikely that they could have split the long 
bones so regularly. The few small cuspidated premolars of the 
bear, coupled with the succeeding broad crowns of the molars, 
are not suited for that continuous penetration and pressure along 
a surface for which the narrow crowns of the teeth of the felidfe 
and hyena are so eminently adapted. As regards the wolf, it 
may be fairly doubted if that animal possessed the requisite 
strength of jaw for the accomplishment of such a feat, at all 
events as regards the femur, humerus, and tibia. Taking, 
therefore, into consideration the oblong and rounded stones, 
battered and chipped at their ends by blows, also other stone 
tools bearing traces of man's handiwork, and strewn about 
among the Irish elk's remains, one can scarcely doubt but that 
the regularity in the mode of fracture was the result of his 
ingenuity for the extraction of the marrow, and possibly also 
for other objects." In the lake-dwelling of Cloonfinlough, the 
bones of the gigantic Irish deer were also discovered in a 
fractured condition. Among the abundant Mammalian Aibris, 
raised from the kitchen-midden or refuse-heap of one of the lake- 
dwellings in Lough Eea, was the head of a gigantic Irish deer, 
measuring about thirteen feet from tip to tip of the antlers ; and 
a writer states that stone hatchets and fragments of pottery have 
been found with the bones of this creature under circumstances 
that leave no doubt of a contemporaneous deposition. 

In the refuse-heap of the lake-dwelling of Breagho, portion 
of an antler was discovered, sawn and perforated with holes. It 
does not, however, necessarily follow that this relic had belonged 
to an animal killed and utilized by the lake-dwellers ; the horn 
may have been found by them on some spot where it had rested 
for ages. The same explanation may be applied to the discovery 
of portion of the gigantic Irish deer (one of its teeth) in a 
prehistoric cist. 

We need not feel surprised at the disappearance of the 
gigantic deer, when we see that the American buffalo has, 
within about two hundred years, been almost exterminated 
through the greed of hunters ; and were it not that a few herds 
are kept in " reservations," under conditions which it is hoped 
will lead to their increase, it would, in a short time, be as extinct 
as the Irish big-horn. Both the Irish deer and the mammoth 
were probably exterminated by man, for we know that primitive 
man was a mighty hunter, and as the human race increased, its 
wants developed proportionally, and more animals were of 


necessity destroyed. If this be the truth, it is an easy solution 
of the problem of the extinction of the mammoth and great deer, 
and does not necessitate an Ice Age, or any great change in 
climatic conditions. 

Of the fact that the reindeer (fig. 20) was contemporary with 
man in Ireland, the evidence is more meagre than is the case with 
the great deer, although both roamed together amidst the plains of 
ancient Erin. Of the several existing varieties of reindeer, the 
one to which the Irish examples may be referred is the Arctic 
cariboo, in which the antlers are slender and rounded, as 
contrasted with the more massive and flattened beam of the 
horns of the woodland cariboo found in Eastern Canada and the 
Rocky Mountains. Bones of the reindeer were found in the cave 
of Ballynamintra in conjunction with traces of its occupation by 

That the bear existed contemporaneously with man in 
Ireland rests — strange to relate — upon more deficient evidence 
than that with regard to the reindeer, although in Scotland the 
bear survived until the middle of the eleventh century. The 
Celtic name for bear frequently occurs in old Irish MSS., and 
legends amongst the peasantry still recount its pursuit and 
capture by the heroes of antiquity. The skulls of this bear that 
have been discovered demonstrate that the animal was of rather 
small size, but, in the cave of Ballynamintra, remains of the 
ui-xus /mix, which some writers have identified with the grizzly 
bear of the Rocky Mountains (fig. 21), have been found in the 
same strata as the remains of man , together with other of the 
huge Mammalia which existed in this epoch. 

There can be no doubt that the wild horse lived in Ireland 
as a contemporary of several animals which are now extinct. In 
the Shandon cave at Dungarvan, the remains of several horses 
occurred with those of reindeer, red-deer, bear, and wolf. In the 
Ballynamintra cave, horses' teeth were found with the bones of 
great deer, bear, and wolf. It is possible that these horses had 
been used as food by the men of the period, but the character 
of the associated remains, and the circumstances of their 
position, afford the principal evidence as to whether the bones 
should be referred to wild or domesticated varieties of the horse. 

There are several well-authenticated instances of horses' 
skulls having been found in caves at Ballintoy, county Antrim, 
and near the shores of Lough Erne. It is not improbable that 
the wild horse may have survived up to a time considerably later 
than the disappearance of the animals mentioned above. 

The eating of horseflesh is characteristic of many prehistoric 
and of many savage races. Numerous traces of the bones of 
horses, the largest having been fractured, evidently for extraction 




of the marrow, occur among the remains of funeral feasts which 
appear to have taken place during the erection of certain cams. 
On the introduction of Christianity into Northern Europe, the 
earliest ordinances of the Church were directed against the use 
of horseflesh, as the horse was, by the heathen, considered 
emblematic of their gods, particularly of the god Odin. 

Fig. 21. 

The Death of the Grizzly Bear. A scene in the Stone Age. 

The " historian" Keating waxes very wrathful on the subject 
of Giraldus Cambrensis having stated that one of the ceremonies 
at the inauguration of the chief of the O'Donnells consisted in 
the tribe assembling on a high hill where they killed a white 
marc, whose flesh was then boiled in a large caldron from which 
the chief had to drink some of the broth, and eat some of the 
meat, animal-like, without the assistance of any implement, 


after which he bathed himself in the liquid. This ceremony, 
according to Keating, "was inconsistent with the _ religion they 
professed, and savoured strongly of Pagan superstition." 

The red-deer (fig. 22), although now restricted to a small area 
in Kerry, appears, judging from the widespread abundance of 
its remains, to have been formerly plentifully distributed all over 
the kingdom. Discoveries in the cave of Shandon prove that it 
co-existed with the mammoth, and its bones abound in the marl 
underlying the peat formation, where those of the great deer 
have been found. When O'Flaherty wrote, they were very 

i\a. 22. — Red Deer. 

numerous. Dr. Thomas Moljneux, his friend and contemporary, 
states that in his day the red-deer were much more rare in 
Ireland than formerly. So late as 1752, they abounded in the 
barony of Erris, county Mayo ; and the celebrated Irish scholar, 
O'Donovan, about the year 1848, heard from an old native that 
in his youth red deer were common, and that he had frequently 
seen them grazing among the black cattle on the mountains. 

Rudely-formed enclosures, surrounded by staked fences, have 
often been found under a considerable depth of bog. They are, 
by some, considered to be traps into which the deer were driven. 
This class of structure consists of a long lane, formed of staked 
lines of pallisading, gradually narrowing, but at the end 
expanding into a circle, where the deer could be killed at leisure. 
This cul-de-sac is supposed sometimes to have terminated in a 



quagmire, for many of the skulls of the deer appear to have been 
broken in the forehead, which could be easily effected when the 
animal was embedded in mud or in a pitfall. Among circum- 
stances corroborative of the large numbers of red deer that 
existed in former times may be mentioned the discovery of 
quantities of tips of stags' horns in the refuse-heaps of lake- 
dwellings, and in many other localities. These pieces of bone, 
from three to five inches in length, were apparently cut off from 
the remainder of the horn, which was probably manufactured 
into various implements ; whilst pins, brooches, weapons, tools, 
and ornaments formed of those tips of horn abound in collections 
of antiquities. 

Fig. 23. 

Supposed Pitfall for catching Deer or other wild animals. 

A. Present surface. H, F. Former surface and forest. C. Rock. 
D. Heap of clay. E. Pitfall. 

In the neighbourhood of Blessington lies a turf bog some 
twelve feet deep, in which, about the middle of the century, a 
circular wooden structure was discovered, some six feet deep, five 
feet in diameter, and lined with upright posts of birch (fig. 28). 
At the time of its construction, the then surface of the bog was 
only slightly above the tops of the birch posts. The interior was 
empty, though the entrance was covered with branches, heath, 
and sods ; since its abandonment the bog had grown over it to 
the height of upwards of six feet. 

Even the rudest tribes visited by modern travellers have been 
found acquainted with the art of digging pitfalls on the customary 
tracks of wild beasts, for the capture of animals which they are 
unable otherwise to kill, or which they do not care to openly 
face. A pitfall, or deep excavation lightly covered with branches, 
and then made to simulate, in outward appearance, the surround- 
ing solid ground, gives way beneath the animal, which is thus 
rendered powerless to escape, and is at the mercy of its captors. 


Despite numerous legends, and folklore, relative to the hunts 
of giants of ancient days after magical boars, prosaic investigation 
suggests that the herds of wild pigs, -which infested the forests, 
were all derived from an introduced breed. Skulls of the pig are 
very commonly found in the refuse-heaps of lake-dwellings. 
The discovery of remains of the pig in Ballynamintra cave, 
however, renders it, at least, not improbable that there may 
have been a wild pig, despite the fact that all recorded skulls 
belong to the long-faced Irish pig, which, even as a domesti- 
cated breed, is now nearly, if not altogether, extinct, its place 
having been taken by others more suitable for fattening purposes, 
for, except in a very few remote and isolated districts in Con- 
naught, the old Irish pig is now extinct (figs. 24, 25). It is 
described by Mr. and Mrs. Hall, in their Tour through Ireland, 
as a long, tall, and unusually lean 
animal, with singularly sharp physiog- 
nomy, and remarkably keen eyes. The 
breed was formerly much preferred by 
the peasantry to introduced kinds, as it 
would " feed upon anything." The 
writers continue thus : — " Ugly and un- 
serviceable as are the Connaught pigs, 
they are the most intelligent of their 
Fir. :>4. species. An acquaintance of ours 

Head of long-faced Irish pisj. taught one to ' point,' and the animal 
" i°r?iand> and Mrs ' Ha "' s found game as correctly as a pointer. 
He 'gave tongue,' too, after his own 
fashion, by grunting in a sonorous tone ; and understood when 
he was to take the field as well as any dog. The Connaught pigs 
used to prefer their food (potatoes) raw to boiled, and would live 
well and comfortably where other pigs would starve. They per- 
forate hedges, scramble over walls, and run up mountains like 
goats, performing these feats with a flourish of their tails, and a 
grunt of exultation that are highly amusing to those whose obser- 
vations have been previously confined to the ' swinish multitude ' 
of clean, white, deliberate, unwieldy hogs that are to be seen in 
English farmyards." 

The refuse heaps of lake-dwellings afford evidence of the pre- 
sence of sheep and goats ; but though the latter appear to have 
been first introduced, there is evidence that sheep were in Ireland 
before the Christian era. Some of the best authorities are of 
opinion that both races were brought into the country, and 
domesticated by man. Several crania of sheep, found on the site 
of the lake-dwelling at Dunshaughlin, indicate the existence of 
four-horned varieties, and one of them has five distinct horn 



The mention of wild cattle by early Irish writers, though not 
infrequent, does not tend to materially modify the conclusion 
arrived at from a full consideration of the evidence, which is, that 
the original stock from whence they were derived was first intro- 
duced from the continent of Europe to the British Isles by pre- 
historic man. The skulls obtained in ancient Irish lake-dwellings, 
as well as in caves, bogs, and river deposits, indicate the existence 
of well-marked races — the broad-faced ox, the shorthorn, with 
small, drooping horns, and its ally, the crumpled horn, and 
another altogether unprovided with horns, like modern "polled 

The wolf existed in Ireland up to the commencement of the 
eighteenth century, when the last of these animals is recorded to 
have been killed in county Kerry. Dr. Dive Downes, Bishop of 
Cork and Boss, when visiting his united diocese in the year 1C!)9, 
kept a journal of his tour (preserved in the library of Trinity 
College, Dublin), and the Bishop, a keen observer and chronicler 
of everything of interest, states that wolves were at the time very 
numerous in the vicinity of Bantry. 

An order made by James I. for the destruction of wolves is 
curious, as showing the probable cause of the end of wolf-life 
in Ireland. It recites that the king being informed of the great 
loss and hindrance to agriculture occasioned by the ravages of 


wolves, directed a grant to be made in 1614, to Henry Tutteshain, 
who had offered to exterminate the wolves, providing traps, 
engines, and four men and twelve couple of hounds in every 
county in Ireland, and requiring only four nobles sterling for the 
head of every wolf or wolf cub. 

The bones of the wolf are not easily distinguishable from those 
of the dog. Bones believed to belong to the wolf have been found 
in association with those of the fox, horse, reindeer, red-deer, 
bear, hare, and mammoth in Shandon cave, county Waterford, 
and together with the remains of the great deer, in the cave of 
Ballynamintra, but, after all, traces of wolf bones are very rare, 
and this is most singular when historical references to the animal 
are considered. 

Other wild animals which then existed, and are yet present, 
are the Alpine hare, otter, marten, badger, and fox; whilst the 
following, known to have existed in Britain, appear not to have 
been present in Ireland in pre-historic times, namely, the beaver, 
roebuck, moose, and the urus or wild ox. 

The Irish hare is considered to differ from that of Great 
Britain, and exhibits, in several respects, characteristics inter- 
mediate between the two descriptions of British hare. The 
difference in the fur of the British and Irish species is very 
observable, the colour of the latter being much lighter ; the most 
obvious divergence is in the tail, the upper surface of which is 
black in the English, and white tinged, with grey towards the 
base in the Irish hare. Professor R. F. Scharff, when treating 
of the origin of the European fauna, points out that : — " Sportsmen 
have for many years tried to permanently establish the English 
hare, Lepits europau.i, in Ireland. Lord Powerscourt tells me 
that he imported a number of them thirty years ago, and that 
they at first increased, but that latterly they have decreased 
considerably. They have never spread during all this time, but 
remained in close proximity to the house, where they were ori- 
ginally turned out. From Southern Sweden we hear of similar 
experiences. Now it cannot be said that a species which thrives 
so well in England from north to south could not stand the Irish 
climate, or that of Southern Sweden which is not unlike that of 
Northern Germany, where this hare is common. It is therefore 
manifest that the difficulty of establishing the English hare 
permanently in these countries is altogether unconnected with 
climate or food." 

The Li-pitx variabilis!, or Arctic hare, is the only one inhabiting 
Ireland. In Great Britain it is confined to the mountains of 
Scotland, whilst the plain is inhabited by the European hare. 
During the Glacial Period, the Arctic hare is supposed to have 
been driven south ; "and its occurrence," again remarks Professor 


Scliarff, "in the Caucasus, the Alps, and the Pyrenees is looked 
upon as a standing testimony to the extreme refrigeration of the 
climate, for, when the cold passed away, the plain is believed not 
to have suited the hare any more, and it returned to the more 
congenial atmosphere of the mountain tops. This view, first 
promulgated, I think, by Edward Forbes, has been almost 
universally adopted. Certainly, as Darwin has remarked, it 
explains the presence of Arctic forms on the Alps and other 
mountains in a most satisfactory manner. Still, I venture to 
think the Glacial Period did not play so important a role in the 
present distribution of the Arctic hare." The smaller or Arctic 
hare is undoubtedly the more ancient species and must have 
arrived in Europe before the larger animal, for, had they arrived 
simultaneously from the East, there is no reason why both should 
not now be present in Ireland. The curious fact that in Ireland 
the Arctic hare and stoat generally change their fur to white in 
winter, although there may be no snow on the ground, is very 
suggestive of a Northern origin, for instance, in the winter of 
1896-7, when the fields were almost as green as in summer time, 
some of these animals were observed with almost snow-white 

The Irish stoat differs essentially from the ordinary English 
and Continental form, so much so that some writers have raised 
it to the rank of a distinct species. The stoat is certainly of 
Northern origin, and it is one of the few mammals which still 
inhabit the Arctic regions, so that, provided a land passage 
existed, it could easily have entered Europe direct from the 

The fauna and flora of Ireland both include an Arctic element, 
generally confined, however, to the northern and western parts of 
Ireland, "as if some barrier had prevented their migration along 
the east coast, or to the central plain, or as if they had been exter- 
minated there in more recent times." 

Mr. Ussher has been so fortunate, in his researches among 
the kitchen -middens of the Waterford sand-hills, as to have 
collected, on that part of the coast, no fewer than seventeen 
bones of the celebrated extinct Auk ; while in Antrim, around 
the shores of Whitepark Bay, Mr. Knowles has found as many 
as twenty-four, associated with flint implements, and with re- 
mains of sundry animals characteristic of an early period in the 
story of human civilization. " That more than forty great Auks' 
bones should, within a short period, thus have fallen into the 
hands of two explorers in the north and south of Ireland, 
respectively, is a fact of considerable scientific value, as cannot 
but be recognised. .. . It is at least highly curious that two Irish 
counties should have contributed so large a proportion of the 


known relics of a bird which, plentiful as it was a century ago on 
other north Atlantic isles, has been practically unrecognised as 
Irish during historic times. All that had, until recently, been 
ascertained of the great Auk, as a member of our fauna, was 
the fact of a solitary specimen having been captured alive near 
Waterford Harbour in 1834 — a casual straggler, as was then 
supposed, although in the light of recent discovery it is now 
naturally suggested by Professor Newton that the lonely bird 
was impelled by some spark of a long latent instinct to revisit the 
home of its forefathers. . . . That its Irish remains have hitherto 
been detected only in the kitchen-middens of our Neolithic ances- 
tors is a circumstance but too well in keeping with the tragical 
tenour of the bird's story in all parts of its ascertained range. 
In fact, the great Auk's remarkable helplessness on land, combined 
with its edible qualities, unfitted it to coexist with man for more 
than a brief period, and perhaps the real wonder is that it 
survived so late. On the Icelandic coast, where it last lingered, 
its extermination was not complete until nearly the middle of the 
present century. Less sensational than the tale of the Garefowl, 
yet full of interest both by reason of the facts which it reveals 
and of the problems which they suggest, is the account given by 
Mr. G. E. H. Barrett-Hamilton of the 'Bird-bones from Irish 
caves ' which he has lately examined. These prove, beyond doubt, 
that both black grouse and Ptarmigan formerly inhabited county 
Waterford, although, with the exception of a generally discredited 
statement as to the Black Grouse in Smith's ' Antient and Pre- 
sent state of Cork,' no historical evidence exists of either bird 
having ever been found in our island." We have thus three 
instances of birds of northerly range in Europe, all unexpectedly 
shown to have inhabited the south of Ireland in olden times ; a 
fact of high importance for the light it throws on former climatic 

The pre-historic mammals domesticated by man were, if 
judged by the traces they have left, not numerous. Foremost 
stands the Irish wolf-dog, generally considered to have resembled, 
but to have been considerably larger than, the present rough- 
haired deer-hound of Scotland ; the formidable character of this 
dog is the subject both of history and tradition; and these 
accounts, it is now fairly ascertained, do not much exaggerate 
the power and strength of the faithful companion, not only of 
the hunter, but also of the warrior, in far remote pre-historic, 
as well as in recent times. There is also very positive evidence 
that there were in Ireland, formerly, two races of wolf-dogs, one 
approaching the greyhound, the other the mastiff type. The 
discovery of several specimens of the crania of this kind of dog 
in the refuse-heaps of lake-dwellings has afforded a good oppor- 


tunity of making comparative examinations. The measurement 
of one of these crania, found on the site of a lake-dwelling, was 
compared with that of an average modern German boar-hound, 
and the Irish skull was in every way the more capacious. In 
the Ballynamintra cave, besides the bones belonging to the 
wolf, other specimens belong to a dog even taller than the wolf. 
This animal may have been domesticated by the hunters, who 
are believed to have split the bones of the gigantic Irish deer for 
extraction of the marrow, and who manufactured the stone imple- 
ments found in the cave. 

The dog is the greatest conquest ever made by man, for the 
taming of the dog is the first element in human progress. 
" Without the dog, man would have been condemned to vegetate 
eternally in the swaddling clothes of savagery. It was the dog 
which effected the passage of human society from the savage to 
the patriarchal state, in making possible the guardianship of the 
flock. Without the dog, there could be no flock and herds ; 
without the flock there is no assured livelihood, no leg of mutton, 
no roast beef, no wool, no blanket, no time to spare ; and, conse- 
quently, no astronomical observations, no science, no industry." 
It is to the dog man owes his hours of leisure. 

" The poor dog is in life tiro firmest friend, 
The first to welcome, foremost to defend, 
Wliosn honest heart is still his master's own, 
Who labours, tights, lives, breathes for him alone," 

and as a French writer sarcastically observes, " Plus je vois les 
hommes, plus j 'admire les chiens." However, as far as arclneo- 
logical research at present extends, it appears that the dog was 
not domesticated by man in Ireland until well on in the Bronze 
Age. Apart from the comparatively few supposed canine remains 
found in company with traces of man, prior to that epoch, the 
canine-like bones do not appear to be those of the domesticated 
dog, in our acceptance of the term, for they have been found 
split, evidently for extraction of the marrow, in the same way as 
are those of other animals, showing that, to whatever animal 
they belonged, whether to the wolf or to the dog, they had been 
eaten by the hunters, which would scarcely have been the case 
wens they those of their own domesticated clogs. 

The earliest mention of the Irish wolf-dog appears to be that 
quoted by the Rev. Edmund Hogan, S. J., and occurs in a letter 
from Quintus Aure.lius Symmachus, Roman consul in the year 
891, to his brother Flavins to the following effect :— " In order 
to win the favour of the Roman people for our quaestor, you have 
been a generous and diligent provider of novel contributions to 
our solemn shows and games, as is proved by your gift of seven 


Irish dogs. All Borne viewed them with wonder, and fancied 
they must have been brought hither in iron cages. For such a 
gift I tender you the greatest possible thanks." 

In the Saga of Burnt Xjal, Olaf, a Norwegian, son of an Irish 
princess, says to his friend Gunnar : — " I will give thee a hound 
that was given me in Ireland ; he is big, and no worse than a 
stout man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has man's 
wit, and that he will bay at every man whom be knows to be 
thy foe, but never at thy friends. He can see, too, in any man's 
face whether he means thee well or ill ; and he will lay down his 
life to be true to thee. This hound's name is Sam." He 
ordered the hound to "follow Gunnar, and do him all the 
service thou canst." The dog then walked up to Gunnar, and lay 
down at his feet ; subsequently his enemies, when plotting against 
his life, were obliged to first kill his Irish canine protector. 

At the comparatively late period of the Scandinavian inroads, 
many of the Irish possessed a well-known breed of shepherd and 
watch dog. In Olaf Tryggvason's Saga, it is related that when 
Olaf was in Ireland he ran short of provisions, went ashore on a 
" coast raid," and collected a large number of cattle, which he 
drove towards his ships. A poor peasant came up to Olaf, and 
implored him to give him back his cows. Olaf replied that he 
might have them if he could recognise them, and not delay him. 
The peasant had a large sheep dog with him, to whom he pointed 
out the herd of cattle, which numbered many hundreds. " The 
dog ran through all the herds, and took away as many cows as 
the Bondi (peasant) said belonged to him ; and they were all 
marked with the same mark. Then they acknowledged that the 
dog had found out the right cattle." The Norsemen thought it 
" a wonderfully wise dog," and have even recorded its name, 
which was Vigi. 

In the year 1652, a proclamation was issued against the 
exportation of wolf-dogs. At the conclusion of the war, many of 
the Irish who "had liberty to go beyond sea," attempted "to 
carry away several great dogs as are commonly called wolf-dogs, 
whereby the breed of them, which is useful for destroying wolves, 
would, if not prevented, speedily decay. These are, therefore, 
to prohibit all persons from exporting any of the said dogs out of 
the kingdom." 

In a letter preserved in the Evidence Chamber, Kilkenny 
Castle, the secretary of the Earl of Ossory reminds the secretary 
of the Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, of the 
promise made by the Duke of " two wolf-dogs, and a bitch which 
his Lordship wrote to you about the King of Spain, . . . and 
that two dogs and a bitch be also gotten for the King of 
Sweden." It is thus seen to what a recent period these wolf- 


hounds were in requisition, and that they can only have become 
extinct in the latter part of the eighteenth century, at earliest, 
for it is extremely doubtful whether the present race of so-called 
Irish wolf-hounds, bred of late years, principally for purposes of 
exhibition, are true representatives of this ancient stock. 

It must be sorrowfully admitted that, as remarked by the 
Rev. Edmund Hogan, S. J., the subject seems to have a greater 
attraction for Englishmen than for Irishmen, "as is evidenced 
by the establishment in Britain of the Irish Wolfhound Club, 
and by the space devoted to Irish wolfhounds in the works on 
dogs which are continually issuing from the press." 

In maintaining her vital balance, it oftens happens that 
nature appears to allow animals that have ceased to be obviously 
useful in taking part in the general economy to die out ; thus, 
" whilst wolves and elks roamed over Ireland, the magnificent 
Irish wolf-dog was common. With the disappearance of wolves, 
this breed of wolf-dogs languished, and has ultimately become 
extinct. As a matter of zoological curiosity, many an Irish 
gentleman would have desired to perpetuate this gigantic and 
interesting race of dogs ; but the operation — the tendency to 
vital equilibrium — has been over-strong to be contravened ; this 
race of Irish wolf-dogs has fleeted away." 



Superstitions regarding Flint Implements — These superstitions sometimes trans- 
ferred to those of Bronze and of Iron — Traffic in Flint the most ancient trade 
in the world — Gravels and Raised Beaches full of artificially-formed Flint 
Implements — Their manufacture carried on all along the littoral — Weapons 
of the Old and New Stone Age — Introduction of the use of Copper — Ancient 
Settlements on the sea-shore — Their first occupiers probably cannibals — 
Their habit of roving from place to place — -Their food — Their manner of 
life — Their clothing — Their existence compared with that of present-day 
tribes of savages living on the littoral — Refuse-heaps and Kitchen-middens 
.—Cooking-places — Bones used as fuel for roasting meat. 

It has been already stated, in the previous Chapter, that in 
collecting implements of flint, the antiquary often meets with 
great difficulty, owing to a superstition prevalent, not only in 
Ireland, but throughout Great Britain and the European Con- 
tinent. It may be observed parenthetically that the people who 
thus buy for a hobby are the forger's best customers. A sound 
archaeologist is a scant source of profit, for, in the first place, he 
can generally detect the real from the false article ; and, in the 
second place, he will not pay exorbitant prices. Cattle that 
commence to fail are looked upon by the country people as 
"elf-shot" or " fairy -struck," i. o. have been subjected to the 
projectiles of the " good people." Collins, in his ode on the 
superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, thus describes this 
fanciful idea : — 

" There every herd by sad experience knows 

How winged with fate their elf-shot arrows fly ; 
Where the sick ewe her summer food foregoes. 

Or, stretched on earth, the heart-sinit heifers lie." 

Bulls and bullocks, however, possess immunity from fairy assaults. 
If a beast is " elf -shot," the first proceeding of a fairy doctor, 
if called in, is to measure the animal, when if one leg, or 
one side of the body, or one side of the head is shorter than the 
■other — or rather if the " fairy doctor " states this to be the case — 


the beast is pronounced to have been overlooked by the "good 
people," or wounded by an elf-dart. For a headache in human 
beings, the first act of " the doctor " is also to measure the 
patient's skull, as the origin of the pain is believed to be the 
opening of the head of the sufferer, by the fairies, by separating 
the bones. The cure is simplicity itself. The doctor passes a 
cord round the patient's head, and marks the length ; then 
several charms are used ; the head is re-measured ; the circum- 
ference of the skull is now demonstrated to have returned to its 
normal condition. A bandage is kept tightly around the brows, 
for some time, to prevent a re-occurrence of the pain through 
the re-opening of the cranium. On this subject attention may 
be drawn to the fact that a tight bandage round the head is often 
used at the present day for the relief of headache ; either it may 
be connected with the old superstition, or both the ancient and 
the modern customs may be accounted for by natural causes. 
Persons suffering from severe headache often obtain temporary 
relief by pressing the head tightly with the hands. What 
medical science may have to say about this, the writer does not 
know, but that there is some benefit seems undeniable. This 
would naturally be observed, and then the fairy theory adopted 
to account for it. 

Another curious instance of the superstition regarding " elf- 
shot " cattle may be also noticed. A gentleman, some short 
time away from home, had, on his return, inquired after his 
cattle, and was informed by his steward that they were then all 
well, but that during his absence one had been " elf-shot," and 
would have died had he not called in a " doctor," who prescribed 
remedies of the usual kind, and also gave a drink to the sick 
beast from a bucket in which lay a stone axe. 

W. H. Maxwell, in his "Wild Sports of the ^\ , est of Ireland," 
thus described a "cow charmer" whom he met at the commence- 
ment of the century while staying at a gentleman's house : — 

' ' I heard, when passing the porter's lodge, that the gate-keeper's 
cow was ill. As she was a fine animal, the loss would have been 
a serious one to the family, and hence I became interested in her 
recovery. For several days, however, the report to my inquiry 
was more unfavourable, and at last the ease was considered 

" The following morning as 1 rode past, 1 found the family in 
deep distress ; and the gate-keeper had gone off to fetch ' the 
charmer,' who lived some ten miles distant. I really sympa- 
thised with the good woman. The loss of eight or nine guineas 
to one in humble life is a serious calamity ; and from the 
appearance of the cow I concluded, though not particularly 
skilful, that the animal would not survive. That evening 1 


strolled out after dinner. It was sweet moonlight, and I bent 
my steps to the gate-house to inquire if the cow still lived. 

" The family were in great tribulation. The charmer had 
arrived — had seen the cow — had prepared herbs and nostrums, 
and was performing some solitary ceremony at an adjacent 
spring-well from which he had excluded every member of the 
family in assisting. I was most curious to observe the incan- 
tation, but was dissuaded by the gate-keeper, who implored me 
' to give the conjurer fair play.' 

"In five minutes the charmer joined us — he said the case was 
a bad one, but that he thought he could bring round the cow. 
He then administered the 'unhallowed potion,' and I left the 
lodge, expecting to hear next morning that the animal was 
defunct. Next day the bulletin was favourable ; and the charmer 
was in the act of receiving his reward. I looked at him : he was 
as squalid and heart-broken a wretch in appearance as ever trod 
the Earth. The cow still seemed weak, but the charmer spoke 
confidently of her recovery. When he left the lodge, and turned 
his steps homewards, I pulled up my horse and waited for him. 
He would rather have avoided an interview, but could not. 
' Well, fellow, you have humbugged that poor family, and 
persuaded them that the cow will recover ? ' 'I have told the 
truth,' said the charmer, coldly. ' And will your prophecy prove 
true ? ' I asked, in a tone of scornful incredulity. ' It will,' said 
he ; ' but, God help me ! this night I '11 pay dearly for it ! ' I 
looked at him — his face was agonised, and, terror-stricken, he 
crossed the fence and disappeared. 

" When I passed the gate-house on my return, the cow was 
evidently convalescent, and in a few days she was perfectly well. 

' ' I leave the solution of the mystery to the learned ; for in such 
matters, as they say in Connaught — Neil an skeil a gau maun." 

The Eev. P. Moore, when presenting a stone amulet to the 
Kilkenny Museum, in the year 1851, stated the curious fact that 
the peasantry, when obliged to sleep in the open air, believe that 
they are safe from fairy influence if they carry a small flint 
arrow-head about them, for mortals are very liable to invisible 
fairy assaults. O'Donovan relates how, in company with a 
namesake, he examined the impressions made by St. Patrick's 
knees in the solid rock. They were always filled with water, 
and considered to possess remarkable curative properties. His 
companion was afflicted with a sore knee, the supposed result of 
" a shot " received from the fairies, whose road, or pass, was 
believed to extend across his father's farm-yard. The boy 
washed his knee in the water of Glun Padraig, and though it 
did him no good, he firmly believed that it was entirely owing to 
his own unworthiness, and not to any want of efficacy in the 


holy water. He had recourse afterwards to many sacred fountains, 
but the effects produced by the elfin bolt remained. 

In an Irish MS. St. Patrick is represented as inquiring the 
history of the burying-mound upon which he was standing at 
the time. His companion replied that a son of a king of 
Jlunster was interred within it, that he had been slain " by elfin 
shots or arrows, and his thirty hounds and thirty followers, who 
attended him, were also killed there by the fairies," and that the 
green mound on which they then stood was raised over them. 

Sir John Evans, in his Ancient Stone Implements of Great 
Britain, states that the superstitious beliefs held with regard to 
stone implements are much the same amongst the Germans as 
amongst the Irish. They " are held to preserve from lightning 
the houses in which they are kept ; they perspire when a storm 
is approaching ; they are good for diseases of man and beast ; 
they increase the milk of cows ; they assist the birth of children ; 
and powder scraped from them may be taken, with advantage, 
for various childish diseases." 

Worked flints, when used as amulets, are further accredited 
with the power of preserving the wearers from danger, and from 
the influence of malign spirits. In Italy they are still in 
common use as preservatives against evil ; and even within our 
own land, it is only within the present century that they have 
ceased to be commonly carried as charms. A flint arrow-head 
mounted in silver is engraved by Douglas. He states that the 
Irish peasantry wore them on their necks as amulets against the 
Aiihadh, or attacks of the fairies. There is a strange story of an 
Irish bishop who was wounded with an "elf-shot" by an evil 
spirit. Several " elf-darts " are engraved in 1'hili.nsophu-al Trmi.t- 
artiunx and in Gough's Caimleii'x llritunniu. 

It is strange that, as soon as bronze and iron had superseded 
flint, implements formed of the latter substance came to be 
regarded as sacred and supernatural objects, und that such com- 
mon and utilitarian implements of savage life should be looked 
on as preserving virtues " as wonderful as they are incredible." 

Even the Jews are embued with this superstition, and still 
perform the rite of circumcision with flint knives. In Joshua 
xxiv. 30 (LXX) we read that, when Joshua was buried, "They put 
with him into the tomb in which they buried him, the knives of 
stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel inGalgala." 
Flint knives were employed by the Egyptians in embalming their 
dead ; flint knives were also used by the Romans, in the early 
period of their history, for sacrificial purposes, especially in 
religious ceremonies attending the ratification of a solemn 
covenant with a neighbouring people. The use of the stone 
knife gave a title to Jupiter, who, in this relation, was appealed 


to by the name of Jupiter Lapis, as the guardian of treaties and 
avenger of their infraction ; and to the close of the second Punic 
war, the use of the stone knife was considered so essential to the 
ceremony, that " the Fetiales, who went to Carthage to conclude 
the peace, each took with him, from the temple, a sacred flint, 
in order that the religious rites might be duly performed. 
Sacred flints appear to have been known also to the Greeks, and 
though no longer employed for directly religious purposes, to 
have retained something of their original character, in being 
used as charms, amulets and talismans." 

In some countries the sacred character of stone implements 
continues on, and is finally transferred to those formed of 
bronze. In Japan and other parts of the East, a wide-spread 
belief exists that antique bronze objects are of celestial origin, 
and like the flint elfin bolts of European superstition, fell from 
heaven. The natural inference to be drawn from this weird 
notion is, that the use of bronze in Japan, and other parts of the 
East, dates back to remote times, and to a past so dim as to be 
totally unknown to the present population, even in vaguest legend. 

Again, iron is considered to act as a charm against malign 
influence. Can it be that the conquered race held in awe the 
metal by means of which they were overcome ? The Irish 
peasantry generally considered iron as a sacred metal, but could 
not assign any reason for so doing ; thieves were even averse to 
steal it ; on the other hand, Arthur Young, in his Tour in Ireland, 
in 1776, states that the larceny of iron shoes from off the hoofs 
of horses, turned out to graze, was of common occurrence. Of all 
the metals, the Irish name for iron most closely resembles that 
of their own country, Erin ; the similarity probably gave origin 
to a story which recounts that long ago the Emerald Isle was 
covered by the ocean, except when it emerged for a brief period 
once in every seven years. Many had attempted to land on it, 
but failed ; at last one adventurer, seeing the shore recede as he 
rowed towards it, was so enraged that he hurled his iron sword 
towards the land, on which it alighted. This broke the spell, 
and the island has since remained above water ; for iron or 
fire appears to be able to make phantom lands assume solid 

Even now-a-days, to make a present of an iron knife, a pair of 
scissors, or any such-like cutting implement is ominous of ill to 
the recipient. To counteract the malign effects, the person 
receiving the gift should tender the donor a penny, or in fact any 
piece of money. Belief in the ill-luck attendant on the present 
of a knife is thus alluded to by Gay : — 

" But woe is me ! sneli presents luckless prove. 
For knives, they tell me, nlvrars sever love." 



In Ireland, flint is found in great quantity in the northern 
parts, more especially in the counties of Antrim, Down, and 
Derry, and from this quarter the vast majority of the specimens 
exhibited in our museums have been procured. The geological 
features of the district in which worked flints are found in greatest 
abundance are very remarkable. The white cliffs of Antrim 
(fig. 20), like the white cliffs of Albion, were doubtless objects of 
great interest to the early colonists, who, after establishing 
themselves on the littoral, discovered the abundance of its flints, 
and guided by local advantages, selected the sites of those Hint- 
factories lately discovered by Irish archaeologists, and thence 
carried on a trade in worked flints with other parts of the island ; 
indeed it has been surmised that the raw material itself was 
carried long distances by the "commercial travellers" of the 
day, for the purpose of manufacture, hoards of flint objects being 
occasionally found in districts to which natural flint is foreign. 


Fig. 20. 

Chalk Cliffs, Antrim Coast Road, near Glenarro, showing basalt covering the 
Hint-bearing chalk.; by Willim Gray, m.k.i.a. l'rora the 
Journal of the present Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

It is startling, but yet true, that a large trade in flint im- 
plements is carried on, even in the present day, so that this 
branch of commerce may be safely designated the oldest exist- 
ing trade in the world. The flint beds, a short distance from 
the village of Brandon, about ninety miles north oi London, 
have been worked from the very earliest times, and are still the 
chief seat of flint-knapping in England. It is almost certain 
that, both in the Old and New Stone Ages, they supplied materia 
for the chief implements then in use, and were, therefore, worked 

G 2 

84 EA RL Y MAN. 

before the formation of the German Ocean, and when, as yet, 
Great Britain was a portion of the European continent. 

Appearances have, in many places, been observed suggestive 
of different ages being represented by the primitive folk who 
worked flint on the Irish coasts. The flint-flakes are in general 
small, and it is evident that larger and older flakes or cores had 
been, at a later date, utilized by workmen, and their former 
surface considerably changed. The interval, between the original 
and the newer manufacture, must have lasted for a period 
sufficient to allow a weathered crust to coat over the markings of 
the early work, of which traces were perceptible where the old 
surface had not been removed. These flints, it is alleged, belong 
originally to the Palaeolithic, or Ancient Stone Period ; and the 
men who hunted the mammoth and the gigantic Irish deer 
may have used similar implements as spear-heads, when, with 
knives of flint, they skinned and cut up their quarry, converted 
its sinews into thread, its skin into coverings for the body, and 
its bones into tools, weapons, and ornaments. 

A thorough and exhaustive examination of the gravels or 
raised beach at Larne was made by a Committee of the Belfast 
Naturalists Field Club in the year 1886. This careful investi- 
gation demonstrated the fact that the gravels are of marine 
origin, and contain numerous shells which, by their character, 
indicate that the temperature of the sea during the deposition of 
the material in which they were embedded, was much as it is 
now. The gravels were found to contain worked flints all 
through their depth ; the flints are not numerous in the lower 
beds, yet they are in sufficient numbers to demonstrate that man 
lived in the locality during the period when the gravels were in 
process of being deposited. Examples of river-gravel Palaeo- 
lithic implements from England closely resemble those from 
the Larne gravels ; and the Irish Palaeolithic flints, like the 
English, are very rough. They present probably the oldest 
traces of rudely worked flints which primitive man has left in 
Ireland. Many cores are so weathered and rounded that only 
an expert can detect them, yet the greater number are so well 
and clearly marked as to satisfy an ordinary observer. They are 
of all sizes, some very large, some very small. The original core 
usually shows the rough outside crust of the flint nodule on one 
side, but many specimens witness to the manipulator having 
struck off flakes from every side. These rude, imperfectly worked 
flints prove the existence of man in Ireland in times so remote 
as, at first glance, to appear incredible, as assuredly as would 
the ruins of Christ Church or St. Patrick's Cathedral prove, to 
some future antiquary, that, before his day, generations upon 
generations trod the land ; for as yet, so far as relic-bearing 


strata have been archoeologically examined, traces of man's 
presence in the far-off past are to be seen in his handiwork, not 
in traces of his skeleton. It is impossible for any person, with 
the most rudimentary knowledge of archaeology, to deny that, 
since his first appearance, man has steadily progressed, for 
deposits of the Old Stone Age show everywhere an improvement, 
which, although extremely slow, is uniformly upward. In the 
countless instances in which Old Stone Age implements have been 
found, the rudest implements are ever in the under-deposits, and 
the improvements in their manufacture, slight indeed, but still 
improvements, can be followed, in an ascending scale, with the 
ascending otrata. 

Weapons of flint must have been amongst the daily necessities 
of ancient savage life. Their abundance in the gravels is by 
no means surprising, especially as the material of which they 
are formed is practically indestructible ; and rough and rude as 
appear to be some of them, they constituted the germs of more 
finished forms. Some were cast aside as failures ; others were 
mere waste flakes and splinters. It is therefore not to be 
wondered at that these relics of ancient times are met with in 
astonishing quantities. They are the earliest relics at present 
known to us of prehistoric times. Possibly we may yet recog- 
nise relics of still greater antiquity, for, as in star-land, the 
astronomer is ever piercing further and further forward into the 
realms o£ space, so in terrestrial matters the archaeologist in 
burrowing downward, is ever unearthing traces of earlier races. 

Every new discovery, throwing further backward the proved 
antiquity of man in Ireland, is at first combated by a host of 
writers, anxious to uphold the old school of archaeology and of 
orthodoxy— and of Archbishop Ussher's chronology. The dis- 
cussion is carried on with great earnestness, but, on the whole, 
it must be admitted that the disputants are actuated by the same 
spirit as that expressed by " truthful James" : — 

" Now I hold it is not decent for a scientific gent 
To say another is an ass — at least to all intent : 
Nor should the individual, who happens to be meant, 
Reply by heaving rocks at him— to any great eNtcnt." 

An important discovery is generally preceded by partial 
discoveries which foreshadow its approach. As the poet says, 
" Coining events cast their shadows before," as heralds and har- 
bingers of truths. " Some fact attracts the attention of an 
observant mind," observes M. Joly; "another similar fact appears, 
perhaps simultaneously, perhaps after an interval of greater or 
less duration ; other phenomena, of like nature, group them- 
selves around the first ; and this assemblage of scattered gleams 


produce a ray of light which at length strikes the eyes of all 
beholders. But the new idea which shines out brilliantly from 
the surrounding obscurity is nearly always opposed to the 
reigning opinion which has become, so to speak, an article of 
scientific, often even of religious faith. Hence arises a strenuous 
opposition, a more or less passionate strife, until at last the 
human mind can enjoy its new conquest in peace." 

Over and over again the presence of worked flints had been 
recorded by numerous explorers. G. V. Du Noyer stated that 
worked flints were found in the raised beach at Ballyholme, six 
to eight feet from the surface ; G. H. Kinahan, m.r.i.a., stated 
that he found a flake at a depth of over twelve feet at Larne ; 
J. H. Staples, in 1869, said that worked flints were found in the 
gravels of the raised beach at Hollywood ; whilst Mr. F. Archer and 
other writers could be quoted. Yet, against this mass of positive 
evidence, mere assertion and contradiction were advanced, until 
the subject was finally put to rest by an impartial and searching 
inquiry. Not only are flakes and cores, or the remains of the 
original body from which they have been struck, found embedded 
at all depths in the gravel, but there are good grounds for sup- 
posing them to be foreign to the gravels, for there is evidence 
that the flakes had become weathered and covered with a thick, 
whitish, porcellaneous, glazed crust, before being entombed in 
the gravels. Specimens found at various depths showed that, 
before being so embedded, the exposed edges of the glaze had 
been worn off, just as, at the present day, glaze is worn 
off pieces of crockery rolled about by the waves on the sea- 

All along the coast from the north as far as Dublin, Neolithic 
or Late Stone Age flint-workers, manufacturers of scrapers and 
arrow-heads, had little other material than these old, thickly- 
crusted cores to utilize (fig. 27) , and many specimens, so rewrought, 
have been found along the littoral. It appears probable that the 
older flakes and cores from the direction of Larne and Belfast were 
drifted by currents along the coast, and that the flint-workers of 
a later date rewrought the old material. The flakes and cores of 
the older series, as they were rolled along, appear to have become 
reduced in bulk the farther they travelled away from their source: 
consequently the implements made from them become smaller 
than those of the same class in the north in proportion as the 
locality of their discovery is distant from the north. Though, at 
first sight, some of these chips might be taken for fragments 
detached by natural causes, yet, if closely examined, it will be 
perceived that the fractures have been effected by human agency. 
They possess distinct characteristics ; one side displays a smooth 
surface, on which, however, there is a protuberance, or "bulb" 



(styled by archaeologists the bulb of percussion), while the reverse 
surface exhibits corresponding depression. 

Fig. 27. 

Hammer Stones and Rude Flint Implements of the Paleolithic t)pe. One-third 
full size. By William Gray, M.R.I. A. From the Jiitrual of the present 
Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 

As the bulb of percussion (sec fig. 2H) is a principal test for 
determining the artificial workmanship of flint flakes, it may be 
well to state that experiments in fracturing flint demonstrate 
that the bulb can only be produced by a blow ; for when a blow 
is struck on the surface of an homogenous substance, such as flint, 



a series of waves, all radiating from the point of impact, are pro- 
duced through the body of the object struck, the fracture being 
determined by the course of these waves, and an imparted down- 
ward force. The cone, or bulb, which is sometimes steplike in 
character, is caused by these waves proceeding in concentric 
circles and the downward force. The bulb of percussion is not 
an accompaniment of natural fracture, for if flint splits through 
atmospheric influences, it breaks, like any other stone, into bulb- 
less pieces of irregular form, whilst any smooth-grained stone, as 
well as flint, will, if fractured by a blow, show a bulb. 

Typical Flint Flake. Half real size. 

A. Flat end. B. Bulb of percussion, i.r. the point on which the blow is delivered. 

C. Conchoidal face, the result of the blow. 1). Ridges. E. The surfaces or facets. 

By William Gray, M.R.I. A. From the Journal of the present 

Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

To overturn this theory it has been argued that man — leaving 
anthropoid apes out of the question — is not the only agent which 
can produce a blow. For instance, a stone dropping from a pre- 
cipice might fall upon another stone and fracture it, thus pro- 
ducing a bulb ; or the ocean billows might hurl one stone against 
another and create a flake with a bulb. The theory of stones 
falling from a height would not, under the most favourable 
circumstances, produce a supply sufficient to permeate the entire 
of the gravels, and if the littoral, where flint is most abundant, 
were carefully examined, very few fresh flakes, knocked off by 
the agency of the waves, would be discovered. Even after a 
storm it is extremely improbable that a single newly-formed flake 
would be observed, though undoubtedly some, generally of very 


diminutive size, are occasionally knocked off, for the tendency of 
the action of the waves is not to scale off large but minute flakes, 
and by rolling the stones one against the other, to round them 
into the form of ordinary seaside shingle. 

It has been urged that the rudeness of flints from the gravels 
militates against their artificial character ; but it must be remem- 
bered that a true Rude Stone or Paleolithic implement is really, 
of its kind, an object of very perfect workmanship. It is also 
self-evidently not the most primitive implement produced by 
man, for, if we are ever able to identify the embryos of which 
rude flint weapons arc the developed products, we shall have 
penetrated very far back into the records of the dim past. 

The difference between the implements of the older and 
newer Stone Periods is very marked, for the weapons of attack 
used by the earliest race of men at present known to us were 
necessarily heavier and more formidable when they had to over- 
come the mammoth and other like animals, than when the 
hunters had to strike down the deer and wild ox. The general 
use of light spear-heads and arrow-heads indicates conclusively 
change in the mode of attack, and also a difference in the kind of 
quarry to be attacked ; it proclaims unmistakably that the old 
food supply was extinct, and that the new food supply was of 
lesser size than when ponderous spear-heads were an absolute 

Even in the apparently simple subdivision of flint imple- 
ments, archasologists are likely to be deceived, for unground 
implements with sharp points and thick, truncated butt have 
been found, together with polished implements, on the shores of 
Lough Neagh. Although analogous in form they differ in the 
character of workmanship and also in their proportions from 
flints found in the gravel. The difference, though slight, is 
such that whilst a solitary specimen might be taken as belonging 
to the Old Stone Age, yet if several were placed together they 
would at once impress an experienced observer as presenting 
later characteristics. 

The uses to which some of these rude implements were put is 
almost self-apparent (fig. 2!)), but as regards the majority it is at 
present almost useless to speculate on the purpose to which they 
were applied. "Almost as well might we ask to what they would 
not bo applied," remarks Sir John Lubbock. "Infinite as are our 
instruments, who would attempt, even at present, to say what 
was the use of a knife ? But the primitive savage had no such 
choice of tools ; we see before us, perhaps, the whole contents of 
his workshop, and with these weapons, rude as they seem to 
us, he may have cut down trees, scooped them out into canoes, 
grubbed up roots, killed animals and enemies, cut up his food, 



made holes in winter through the ice, prepared firewood, built 
huts, and in some cases, at least, they may have served as sling- 

1-'|G. Tj. 

Hammer Stone, found with its surface battered all over, evidently by constant use 
as a pounder. Half-size. From Sir John Evans' " Rude Stone Implements. 

stones. In fact they served all the uses which it nowadays takes 
a carpenter's kit to accomplish."* (Fig. 30.) 

1<'ig. 30. 

Stone Axe, retaining its wooden handle, found in peat, which had formed the bed 
of a small lake in Cumberland. Quarter real size. From Sir John Evans' 
" Rude Stone Implements." 

* A envious discovery was made in the year 18S0, of a small whinstone 
hatchet embedded in the heart of a trunk of ash. The girth of the tree at the 
place where the nxe was cut out was ten feet ; and its age, as calculated by the 
concentric rings, upwards of one hundred and twenty years: thus, though the 
discovery is curious, the deposition of the implement was far t«o recent to he of 
any practical archaeological value. In case of the future discoverv of a stone 


The archaeologist is asked to fix a date to this period, which 
modern discovery has unrolled before our eyes ; all he can say 
is that it is impossible not to sympathise with the yearning after 
knowledge, but so far as present data go it is impossible to' frame 
a satisfactory answer ; we are unable to see clearly so far back 
into the dim past, or to, as yet, describe the genesis of the human 

In the Eude Stone Age, agriculture must have been almost 
unknown, the forest remained unfelled, hunting and fishing were 
the sole, or at any rate the principal, means of human livelihood ; 
it was the discovery of copper that first enabled man to make 
clearings in the woods on any large scale, and to sow the land 
thus prepared with grain. If copper ore occurred anywhere in 
great abundance, it could not well have escaped attracting the 
attention of the early inhabitants of the country ; tluv might, 
at first, have regarded it merely as a stone of peculiarly heavy 
material, and on commencing to chip and work it into shape 
would immediately notice that it yielded to the blow instead of 
splitting. It would not take a lengthened period before the 
savage would avail himself of the malleable nature of the stone, 
and would soon hammer out implements from the ore. A piece 
of copper falling into the fire would at once indicate its fusible 
characteristics, so that from hammering to casting implements 
there is not such a hiatus as a mere casual observer might 
imagine, for the whole history of human civilization has been 
one of slow but constantly accelerated progress. 

The Older Stone Age, when men knew only how to rudely 
chip flint implements, was, a,s we have seen, one of immense and 
incalculable duration, to be reckoned, bold chronologists aver, 
by hundreds of thousands of years. There was improvement 
during all this long epoch, but the improvement was almost im- 
perceptible ; the rude chipped weapons of the drift gave way, at 
last, to the more shapely lance and arrow-heads of skin-clad cave 
men ; even then vast epochs elapsed before the discovery of some 
prehistoric inventor of the art of grinding his weapons to an edge, 
instead of chipping them, and so the Neolithic or Polished (Stone 
Period was entered on. Jade has been described as " an old 
world mineral," and objects found in Europe formed of this 
material are ascribed to an oriental source. The presence, in 

hntchel retaining its original handle it may be well to point out that the process of 
preserving vnoil, when in the sodden and brittle condition in which it is found 
alter long burial in bogsy matter is extremely simple. The danger to be 
guarded against, is that the objects becoming dry will split and coi.tiact, and so 
lose their original form. They must therefore be kept moist until they have 
been steeped, or boiled, in a strong solution of alum, after which process, if 
allowed to dry gradually, they retain their original shape. 


small numbers, in Ireland, of axes formed of jade is unquestion- 
able, but the manner and period of their transport thither, and 
their connexion with the place of their discovery, are questions 
yet to be determined. If the Continental, British, and Irish 
jadite axes be of Eastern origin, it undubitably points to a well- 
defined prehistoric trade existing between Asia and Europe. If 
commercial intercourse gives the true explanation of the presence 
of jade in Western Europe, how are we to account for the fact 
that bronze was not introduced to the West at the same time 
and by the same means ? 

At first a great many hard, tenaceous, and dense rocks, whose 
mineralogieal natures were not well established, were classed 
together under the name of nephrite, and it is quite possible that 
some of the supposed oriental jade or nephrite axes may fall 
under the above catagory. Amongst so many conflicting and 
completely contradictory opinions it is impossible, with the 
knowledge at present at our disposal, to arrive at any final 
decision. It is alleged by some, denied by others, that veins of 
jade, which might have served to make these axes, have been 
found in certain localities, but satisfactory proofs of the identity 
of oriental jade, with that of the axes found in the European area, 
and of the absence of this stone therein, can alone definitely 
settle the question. 

The Neolithic or Late Stone Age, although immeasurably long, 
as compared with the Bronze Age which follows, was very short 
when compared with the Older Stone Period that preceded it. 

With the entry of copper on the scene, came enormous 
changes faster and faster, until the use of iron still further 
accelerated the rate of progress, yet the discovery of copper and 
the invention of bronze formed, in reality, the greatest epoch in 
civilization, the distinct turning point in the history of the 
human race. Of a pure Copper Age, in Ireland, or indeed in 
Europe in general, there are little certain traces, and many 
archaeologists hold theories involving the Asiatic origin of bronze, 
and aver that when the use of copper was introduced into 
Europe it was also known that it was rendered harder and 
more serviceable when alloyed with tin. 

The revolution effected by the introduction of metal in the 
early world has been compared with the revolution effected by 
railways and electricity in our own times, only the world of the 
Stone Age was so simply constructed that the change in it was, 
though much less sudden, probably even more marvellous in its 
comprehensiveness. The term " Stone Age," with its sub-titles, 
are correct descriptions, for during the entire period comprised 
in the Age of Stone, primitive man possessed no knowledge of 
metals ; but the term "Bronze Age " is a misnomer, for it did not 


succeed the Stone Age, it ran concomitantly, and even .struggled 
on until finally extinguished by the introduction of iron. 

Although the Bronze Age covered the shortest period of time, 
when compared either to that of stone or even to that of iron, it 
was, nevertheless, far the most important period, as it embraced 
the transition epoch, formed the connecting link, and furnished 
the transformation scene between savagery and civilization. It 
was the period when "The old order changes, giving place to new." 

The North of Ireland has, for many years past, yielded a rich 
archaeological harvest in the exploration of the sites of primitive 
villages, huts, and refuse-heaps in their vicinity. The question 
has been discussed at some length as to whether the people who 
lived in these huts and raised these shell mounds along the 
beaches, lived permanently on the sea-shore, or only visited it at 
certain seasons of the year. 

In primitive times families were purely nomadic, and, though 
in the Late Neolithic Period each tribe probably claimed and 
held a certain extent of territory, they were nomadic within its 
limit. Their chief means of livelihood must have been hunting, 
but at certain seasons of the year they gravitated towards the 
sea-shore for change to a fish diet, and as long as the fishing 
localities remained productive they would return, year after year, 
to the same place, leaving traces of their sojourn in the shell 
mounds, which in time will yet yield to us the complete story of 
this period of the past. The Irish peasant of the present day 
still delights in spending a few weeks of the summer at the sea- 
side, and his prehistoric ancestors were evidently inspired by the 
same feeling. Of this, undoubted evidence has been left in the 
artificial hillocks which dot the littoral. Many of those that 
have been inspected lie only just above high-water mark, and are 
composed principally of the shells of Crustacea and fractured 
bones, both of animals and fish ; they may, in fact, be described 
us the remains of primitive man's summer picnic at the seaside. 
Scattered amongst them are hammer-stones abraided at the 
extremities, evidently used for breaking bones and shells ; frag- 
ments of coarse earthenware and masses of charcoal are inter- 
mingled in the debris of past festivities. In the townland of 
Keele West, in the island of Achill, were three ancient shell- 
mounds, just above high-water mark, and in close proximity to 
each other (fig. 31). When examined it was found that the remains 
left by these primitive toilers of the sea had been almost entirely 
removed by the peasantry, who burned the shells for the purpose 
of reducing them to lime for whitening their homesteads ; this 
process has been going on for years, so that the original size of 
the refuse-heaps must have been very great. Two of them, 



however, had not been quite so much exploited as the first one 
noticed. Here were found hammer-stones and bones of wild 
pig, traces of charcoal, and shells of various marine crustaceEe. 

Fig. 31. 

Shell-Mound, Island of Achill. 

There are a number of kitchen-middens on some small 
islands in the estuary forming Cork harbour. Two of the 
largest heaps, about 300 feet long, and from three to five feet 
in thickness, consisted principally of oyster-shells, with thin 


Fig. 32. 

Ancient Shell-Mound, Brown Island, Cork Harbour. From a drawing by G. M. 
Atkinson, reproduced from the Journal of the present Society of Antiquaries 
of Ireland. 

layers of charcoal ; sections, exposed through denudation by the 
sea, or by farmers carting away the deposit for agricultural pur- 
poses, afforded evidence of different periods of occupation of these 
sites (figs. 32, 33). With the exception of charcoal and some 
hammer-stones, no other evidence of artificial formation was 
noticed. Thus we see that primitive man, living on the littoral 



had, at any rate, one very marked advantage over his nineteenth- 
century descendant, in that he had abundance of oysters and 
swallowed them freely without the qualifying dread that he was 
likewise swallowing the germs of typhoid fever. 

Kit;. 33. 

Ancient Shell-Mound, Brick Island, Cork Harbour. From a drawing by G. II. 
Atkinson, reproduced from the Journal of the present Society of Antiquaries 
of Ireland. 

As the season changed so did the home of these seaside folk. 
In summer they aired themselves in tents and wattled huts, in 
winter they returned inland and burrowed like the rabbits. 
These winter dens were entered by a hole in the roof, whilst to 
many of the larger retreats there was a subterranean passage, 
along which they crawled on hands and knees. Several families 
must have inhabited the larger class of dwellings, where fumes 
of oil lamps, stores of raw meat, and naked bodies smeared with 
grease and unguents combined to make an atmosphere which to 
our modern ideas would have been difficult to tolerate (fig. 31). 

From the following passage in an Icelandic legend in the 
Lawlminm it appears that these underground retreats were used 
in Ireland in the ninth century :— " Leif went on warfare m the 
West. He made war in Ireland, and there found a large under- 
ground house ; he went down into it, and it was dark until light 
shone from a sword in the hands of a man. Leif killed the man, 
and took the sword and much property. Therefore he was called 
Hjorleif (Sword-Leif). He made war widely in Ireland, and got 
much property." , 

The following tenth-century story, a Saga of lnorgils , 
quoted by Macllitchie in Undetymuml Lih; describes another 
raid on one of these souterraius. Thorgils and Gyrd, joint 
leaders of a band of Northern freebooters, " harried during 
summer with much gain, and exterminated many robbers and 



evil-doers, but leaving genuine farmers and traders in peace. 
Towards summer they came to Ireland (to a place) where in 
front of them they discovered a forest. Just after entering the 
forest they came to a spot where they saw a tree whose leaves 
had fallen off. They pulled up the tree (evidently a sapling) and 
beneath it they found an underground chamber, wherein they 
saw men with weapons. Thorgils proposed to his people that 
whoever should be the first to go into the earth-house should 
become entitled to the three objects of booty which he desired, 
to which all agreed, except Gyrd. Then Thorgils sprang down 

Fig. 34. 
Ideal scene in an underground dwelling. From a sketch bv W. F. AVakenian. 

into the chamber, and encountered no opposition ; and there 
were two women there, one of whom was young and beautiful, 
and the other old, yet not without good looks. Thorgils went 
about the chamber, whose roof rested upon upward-bent beams ; 
he had a mace in his hand, wherewith he smote about him on 
either side, so that all fled before him. Thorstein went with 
him, and then they came out of the earth-house, and took the 
women, the young one as well as the elder, with them to the 


ships. The people of the place now set out in pursuit of them 
and Thorgils getting on board, they steered out from the shore.' 
Now a man of the host which was pursuing them, stepped 
forward and harangued them, but they understood not his speech. 
Then the captured woman interpreted his story to them in Norse," 
and said : ' He will resign his claim to the goods you have 
taken, if only you will let us go. This man is an earl, and my 
son ; but my mother's kindred are from Vik, in Norway. Follow 
my counsel, then will you best derive benefit from this rich 
booty, for trouble comes with the sword. My son is named 
Hugh, and he has preferred to thee, Thorgils, other goods, 
rather than that you should carry me away, which could not be 
of any profit to you.' Thorgils agrees to their request, and 
brings them to land. The earl went joyfully towards Thorgils, 
and presented him with a gold ring; his mother gave him 
another, and the maiden gave him a third. Thereafter they 
bade each other a friendly farewell." 

The habit of roving from place to place for the purpose of 
hunting, or for fresh pastures for cattle, continued in Ireland so 
late as the time of Queen Elizabeth, Spenser relates that the 
Irish in his time "kept their cattle and lived themselves, the 
most part of the year, in boolies (cow-houses), pasturing upon 
the mountain and waste wild plains, removing still to fresh land 
as they have depastured the former." Many laws were passed 
to prevent indiscriminate grazings but without avail. The late 
Sir William Wilde, in the year 1835, described this custom as in 
full force on the island of Achill, that during the spring the 
entire population of several of the villages on the island " close 
their winter dwellings, tie their infant-children on their backs, 
carry them with their loys (spades) and some corn and potatoes, 
with a few pots and cooking utensils, drive their cattle before 
them, and migrate into the hills, where they find fresh pasture 
for the flocks ; and where they could build rude huts, or summer- 
houses of rods and wattles, called boolies, and then cultivate and 
sow with corn a few fertile spots in the neighbouring valleys. 
They thus remain for about two months of the spring and early 
summer, till the corn is sown. Their stock of provisions being 
exhausted, and the pasture consumed by the cattle, they return to 
the shore, and eke out a miserable and precarious existence by 
fishing. In the autumn they again return to the mountains, 
where they remain while the corn is being reaped." 

Probably the most primitive dwellings in Ireland are the huts 
or hoolies on the Island of Inishgloria. Eudely built, without 
mortar, roofed with sods, they are still inhabited, for about three 
months during the lobster fishing season. The height inside, 
from ground to rafters, dot's not permit of the occupants 



assuming an upright position. The furniture consists of a rude 
bunk filled with straw, for sleeping in ; large stones do duty for 
chairs: the cooking is done out of doors. 

Fynes Moryson and Spenser describe the Irish of their day as 
sleeping in rude wattled shelters roofed with sods of turf or 
under the canopy of heaven, men and women together, in a circle 
round the camp fire, their feet towards it, their heads and the 
upward parts of their bodies wrapped in woollen mantles steeped 
in water, as experience had shown them that wetted woollen cloth 
retained heat, when the temperature of the bodies had warmed 
the cloth. The herds of cattle which these wanderers possessed 
were described as "multitudinous"; the aggregate of families 
that, in one body followed a herd, was called a " creaght,"and so 
late as Elizabethan times almost the entire population of Ulster 
lived this wild and nomadic life. The cattle are described as 
very diminutive ; even when almost starving the men would not 
kill a cow, they would open a vein and drink the blood. 

A Fellow of Cambridge, who travelled in Ireland in 1670, 
notes the extremely meagre diet of the Irish of his time ; he 
says : — " The Irish feed much upon herbs, watercresses, sham- 
rocks, mushrooms, and roots. They also take beef broth, and 
flesh, sometimes raw, from which they have pressed out the blood. 
They do not care much for bread ; but they give the corn to their 
horses, of whom they are very careful. They also bleed their 
kine, and as the blood stiffens to a jelly, they stew it with butter 
and eat it with great relish, washing it down with huge draughts 
of usquebaugh." 

Unwholesome diet fosters disease. Dr. Boat in his Natural 
History of Ireland attributes the miserable state of leprosy, that 
in his day prevailed throughout Ireland to " the foul gluttony of 
the inhabitants in tbe devouring of unwholesome salmon." Other 
writers ascribed this affection to the raw state in which the 
natives were accustomed to devour animal food — 

" "lVas blood-raw meat 
Which they for constant food did eat, 
Affirming that all meat was spoil' J, 
Thai either roasted was, or boil'd." 

W. J. Knowles seems to have been one of the most active and 
painstaking investigators of the sites of the move ancient settle- 
ments along the littoral. From the remains found, it is probable 
that their first occupiers were cannibals, for human and animal 
bones are strangely commingled. They appear to have been in 
an extremely rude state ; no metal of anv kind was found • there 
is scarcely a trace of polishing on their Hint implements • and the 
pottery was coarse and sun dried. The print of his naked foot 



or those of wild animals in the soft earth, a clod hardened in the 
sunshine, or baked clay occurring in the ashes on the hearth, may 
have first suggested to primitive man the idea of forming vessels 
to hold liquids, wild seeds, fruits, or roots. Fragments of 
pottery have been rightly styled the cornucopia of archaeological 
science, for generally abundant, pottery possesses two excellent 

Grain-rubber. From Sir Jolm Evans' " Rude Stone Implements." 

qualities, being easy to break and yet difficult to destroy, rendering 
it very valuable in an archaeological point of view, and investi- 
gation bus shown that in some early settlements these primitive 
inhabitants of Erin had in use a distinctly characteristic style of 
rude pottery. 

Grain rubbers, or mealing stones, found on sea-side sites do not 

liy any means presuppose an even 
rudimentary process of agriculture 
(fig. /!•")). drain is but one of the 
many products which may be 
ground into a kind of flour ; for 
most grasses produce very small 
edible kernels, as do also many 
trees and bushes, whilst nuts, 
acorns, dried roots of plants, and 
fruit, can all be reduced to a rough 
species of flour. Amongst some 
of the tribes of North America 
the roots of the common fern, or 
bracken, are, in everyday use, 
either simply boiled, or crushed with a stone muller, and then 
rousted (fig. 30). 

H ? 


Fig. ."(!. 

Grain Grinder still used in the Aran 
Islands. From a sketch by \V. 1''. 



The oldest Irish sea-side population at present known to us 
do not seem to have possessed domesticated animals ; they, in 
fact, belonged to the Neolithic or Late Stone Age in Ireland, and 
to its earliest period. There was, however, in one locality evi- 
dence of a still older Stone Age. Along the shore, a short 
distance from some hut-sites, heavy and massive flint-flakes, 
covered with a thick crust, and glazed on the outside, were 
noticed. This crust is observable only on flints exposed to 
atmospheric influences ; for flints buried in the ground, protected 
from air and moisture, do not weather. Several blocks of 
flint which had been used by the hut-building folk, thus 
crusted, when carefully examined, afforded evidence that they 
had been previously wrought in long distant times. This is a 
good example of an older and a newer Stone Age : a people 
dwelling in huts along the northern littoral, found rude and 
large cores, flakes and implements, which would arjpear to have 
been of a more archaic type than those they were in the habit 
of manufacturing, weathered, and deeply-crusted, when they 
picked them up. These they brought to their dwellings, and 
rewrought and finished them after their manner. A similar 
instance was noticed by the writer in some flint implements dis- 
covered in sepulchral cists of apparently the Late Neolithic Age 
at Carrowmore, near Sligo. 

On the sites of prehistoric settlements, at Portnafeadog on the 
Connemara littoral, F. J. Bigger, ji.k.i.a., the energetic editor of 
The lister Journal of Arcliccoloijij, found a large heap of methodi- 
cally fractured shells of the dog-whelk (iiui-puni lapillus). Any- 
one who broke a sufficient number of these shells, merely to 
satisfy his hunger, would have an arduous task, and the dis- 
coverer suggests that they were crushed to obtain the rich purple 
dye they afford. The colouring matter is of easy extraction if 
the shell be broken in a similar manner to the specimens found 
in the shell-mound of Portnafeadog. The settlement was of the 
Neolithic Age, at earliest, as broken bones of the horse, cow, 
sheep, pig and dog or wolf were found ; no flint, metallic imple- 
ment, or fragment of pottery was observed, but it is quite possible 
an Atlantic storm may, some day, by sweeping away the over- 
lying sand, do good archaeological service. 

In some sepulchral cists on the littoral the flat scales or 
plates of the sturgeon occur ; weapons made of cetaceous bone 
are also not infrequent, and the sea-side population may have 
often received the gift from the ocean of a dead whale, a dead 
basking shark, or other great marine monster, on which they 
could gorge, and could afterwards utilize its skeleton in the forma- 
tion of weapons (fig. 87 ). On the western coast the whale and the 
basking shark, or sunfish, are even yet a not uncommon capture, 
particularly off the island of Achill (fig. 38). 


Whitepark Bay (fig. 89), on the north coast of Antrim, bor- 
dered by a broad sweep of white sand, backed by low chalk cliffs, 
shut in on one side by Bengore Head and on the other by the 
rocks which fringe the shore near Ballintoy, is well known for 
the abundant prehistoric objects which it yields, and which show 
that it was an important settlement of earlier races. Bude flint 
implements, bones, fragments of pottery and charcoal, occur in 
certain definite layers, which represent the ancient land surface. 
This is now buried below many feet of blown-sand ; yet the sand 
constantly shifts, under the influence of the wind, exposing the 
old surface, and thus traces of the former inhabitants are again 
exposed to the light of day. 



Wliitepark Hay, looking West. A typical site nf an Ancient Sea-side Settlement. 
From a sketch I.y William Gray, m.h.i.a., reproduced from the Journal of 
the present Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

A site examined and described by \Y. J. Knowles, at Bally- 
ned, county Donegal, may be tali en as a good illustration of these 
seaside remains. The beach, where the various objects usee by 
these primitive folk had been found, was, not many years ago, 
covered with sand hills, thirty feet in height. It has now been 
swept bare through the action of the wind, and is in places 
studded with old hut-sites, and their hearths with black matter 
underneath, full of shells ; a few hammered stones and rounded 
and broken quartzite pebbles, some cracked from heat, others 
evidently split into sharp-edged pieces by hammering. Those 
quartzite flakes and spalls must have been intentionally wade, 
though there was no evidence of dressing, such as is found on 
flint implements. 


Articles of bronze and iron, glass and porcelain beads, and 
even coins have been found in several of these sandhills ; for 
instance, a coin of Queen Elizabeth at Dundrum, and a halfpenny 
of Queen Victoria at Portstewart. " Such finds," writes W. G. 
Knowles, " have caused some of my archaeological friends to look 
on flint implements as belonging to a comparatively late period, 
so late as to be at least contemporary with iron objects. But 
as yet there is no evidence that metal of any kind was used 
conjointly with the flint tools (i.e. in the ancient seaside settle- 
ments). The old surface is the test for contemporaneousness. 
Whatever is dug out of it must have been in use at the same 
time, and any implements lying loose on the surface, similar to 
those contained in the old surface, must be classed with them. 
But there have also been found, lying on the present surface 
among the worked flints, grains of shot, cartridge cases, scraps of 
iron, such as nails, broken bottles, portions of old shoes, and 
stray coins of late date." It is not surprising that modern 
articles have been trampled into the old surface where it is 
exposed, and thus become stumbling blocks to archaeologists. 
Although some of these sea-side settlements belong exclusively to 
a flint-using folk, many apparently lingered on to the time when 
bronze was in use, and possibly to the period of the introduction 
of iron, and even to comparatively recent times. The Neolithic 
Age in Ireland may, in some places, reach back to the same 
period as in England ; but, on the other hand, it may in other 
places be advanced to times comparatively modern. 

Blown sand is an excellent preserver of prehistoric remains. 
This is best exemplified in places where the sand is not over deep 
or too much exposed to strong winds, for in exposed places the 
old surface has been broken up and obliterated, and in such cases 
it is only in parts some distance inland that undisturbed remains 
are found. Some portion of the old surfaces after having been 
denuded of their sandy covering, become covered with a grassy 
sward, and acquire another sandy covering, which leads to the 
belief that these may be cases of an old surface having had its 
covering blown away, and another formed repeatedly since the 
sandhills were occupied by a prehistoric folk. If the Neolithic 
inhabitants came hero on foot with the other recent fauna of the 
country, many of the earliest remains near the coast have probably 
been destroyed by denudations, but those now remaining show the 
old culture of some of our earliest settlers. Apparently they first 
occupied the littoral, and spread inland along the various water- 
ways (lig. 40). On the shores of the Bairn, implements are found 
similar to those from the sandhills, -which favours the opinion 
that these people knew little, if anything, of agriculture. They 
appear to have been hunters, living on the great Irish deer (one 


bone only has been found), ox, pig, sheep or goat, and red deer ; 
there are also remains of horse, and dog or wolf, but ^whether 
these three latter were domesticated or were hunted and used for 
food, like the other animals, remains to be proved. Among the 
birds are traces of goose, gull, duck, and great auk ; from the 
number of bones of the latter bird, it must have been very 
abundant in the North of Ireland at the time the people of the 
Stone Age occupied tbe rna«t line 


J-'i.i -10. 
Inland hrttlemi-nt of the Slonc .\^ 

Among present-day savages the men undertake no physical 
exertion, save such as is incurred in the chase, in the supply of 
meat or fish for the family ; beyond this, the males decline all 
manual labour, and relegate it to the women folk, who gather 
wood, light and keep up the fires, cook, fabricate culinary utensils 
and pottery, scrape, fashion and sew skins for clothing, and like 
beasts of burden carry about the household goods, from camp 
to camp, as the locality is changed, for the purpose of seeking 
a better area for food-supply. This must also have been the 
manner of life of a family in Ireland in the olden times. 

Tbe accompanying illustration (fig. 41) represents an imagi- 
nary scene of old sea-side life. To the left are a couple of 
natives engaged in the erection of a hut; traces of such frail 
" boolies" are still observable on many points on the coast. In 
plan they were usually circular, or more or less oval. There can 
be little or no doubt that tbe roof was composed of bent boughs 

I & it Hr* 



or saplings, forming a kind of basket-work (fig. 42), covered with 
zero, ira, or thin strips of the surface of grassy land. The ends of the 
saplings would appear to have been inserted in the sand or soil of 

Fig. J ■>. 

Skeleton framework of Kaffir Hut, South Afrka, showing roof and side-walls 
composed flf bent bough. Photo, ll'i*/-/,/ AAnaii'/.c. 

the sea-shore, at a little distance above high-water mark, and to 
have been secured in their position by an unceineiited stone wall 
of slight elevation (fig. -IS). In the foreground is present a party 
of the natives seated round a cooking- place. Quantities of 
broken pottery, of rude description, are found round many of 
these hearths. Judging by the remains, some of the larger 
cooking pots were furnished with ears by which they might be 
suspended uver a fire. In the middle distance is a group of the 
small aboriginal cattle which formed the herds of Ireland in 
remote ages. On the margin of the sea are shown boats, 
formed out of a single piece of timber, such as were used 
by these people, and, probably, for centuries later, by their 

108 EARL Y MAN. 

Fig. 43. 

Sketch-plan of uncemented Stone "Wall in an Irish prehistoric sea-side settlement : 
the saplings thus secured in position, forming the framework of side-walls and 
roof. From a sketch by W. J. Knowles, in the Journal of the present Society 
of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

Although probably very diminutive folk, popular tradition 
depicts some of these primitive fishermen as beings of gigantic 
stature. Great Man's Bay, in Iar Connaught, took its name 
from one of these supposed giants, and the country people show 
a large hollow rock, which they call his churn, and three other 
rocks, which supported the caldron wherein he boiled the whales 
which he caught with : 

' Mis angle-rod, made of a sturdy oik ; 
His line a cable, which in storms ne'er broke.' 1 

The inhabitants of these sea-side settlements probably daubed 
themselves with pigments, but in this fashion they were not a 
whit more barbarous than the primitive inhabitants of Great 
Britain ; for there can be little doubt that the Palaeolithic and 
Neolithic inhabitants of Britain used a red pigment as a substi- 
tute for clothing, and its use was continued for personal deco- 
ration to a comparatively late period. The use of pigments of 
various descriptions dates back to a very early period ; pieces of 
hematite, with the surfaces scraped, apparently by means of 
flint-flakes, have been found in the Continental caves of the 
lteindeer Period, so that this red pigment appears to have been 
in early favour with savage man. 

Irish cave-dwellers have also left behind them flints, 
bearing unmistakable marks of attrition; from remains found 


near them, one of the uses to which they were put is believed to 
have been the production of a red pigment by scraping pieces of 
hard hematite iron ore. In cold countries the use of pigments 
may have arisen as a protection against the inclemency of the 
weather; in warm countries as a protection against heat and 
stinging insects. From these beginnings the custom might 
easily become crystallized into habit. In many localities, in the 
present day, fishermen and sportsmen frequenting marshy places, 
smear their faces and hands with certain kinds of thick ointment, 
to make themselves proof against the stings of insects with which 
the air is filled. Among many wild tribes of Patagonia both 
men and women paint their faces and their arms with ochre, 
and other coloured daub ; this process is said to protect the skin 
from the solar rays and from the dryness of the atmosphere. 

Lumps of colouring matter, of various hues, but principally 
red, have been found on the sites of Irish lake dwellings. The 
red pigment may, however, have been employed for the purpose 
of coating the exterior of earthenware crocks. The practice of 
placing paint beside the dead is yet observed among the North- 
American Indians : — 

" The paints that warriors love to iw 
Place here within his hand, 
That lie may shine with ruddy hues 
Amidst the Spirit Band." 

"We are not left to conjecture, or forced to draw analogies 
from the habits of present day savages as to the manner in 
which late flint or bronze-using man, in Ireland, clothed 

The uniform pressure, together with the soft and yielding 
nature of peat, as a general rule, preserves fragile objects embedded 
in it from injury, whilst the peculiar antiseptic property of bog 
water — impregnated with the tannin of the innumerable roots 
and fibres which constitute peaty matter — preserves objects 
formed of animal material, of wood, iron, and other destructible 
substances deposited in it. 

During the last century several human bodies, still retaining 
their clothing, are recorded as having been discovered in bogs, but 
they were so archivologically neglected as to afford little infor- 
mation on the subject of ancient costumes. 

In a bog, in the parish of Derryreighan, county Antrim, a skin 
cape was found in the year lSIll at a considerable depth below 
the surface. It measures 24 inches in length ; its width at one 
edge is 36, and at the other ,">0 inches. The material used in 
the sewing consists of two strands twisted together to form one 
thread, and judging by their length, they are probably the sinews 



of some large animal. The holes made by the needle are small, 
the sewing regular, the top and bottom of the cloak bordered by 
a double thong stitched in a most elaborate manner. From the 
small size of all the pieces of skin employed in the formation 
of the cape, it is highly probable that the animals which 
furnished the fur were diminutive ; the joining is executed so 
skilfully as to present, externally, a uniform appearance. The 
skins have been completely tanned, either intentionally, or by the 
long continued action of bog water (fig. 44). 

Fig. \ i. 

Sketch showing manner in which the cape was probably worn. Reproduced from 
the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. 

So late as quasi-historical times, the charioteer of the hero 
Guchullin is described as clothed in a mantle of deer-skin ; 
leather cloaks are mentioned as worn by the followers of the 
Ulster Chief,. Murtoch MacNeill, when, in the year 942, he 
marched around Ireland (figs. 45, 46). 

In the year 1821 a human body completely clad in a deer- 
skin garment was found, ten feet below the then surface of a bog, 
at Gallagh, near Castle Blakeney, county Galway. The head, 
legs, and feet were bare ; the body was clad in a tunic of deer- 
skin which reached to the knees and elbows, and was laced in 
front with leather thongs. The seams present good specimens of 
early needlework, each stitch of fine gut, knotted, so that it was 
almost impossible for it to rip. When first dug up, dress and 



body were quite perfect ; the corpse wa3 that of a man, at least 
six feet m height, of middle age, with long dark hair and partially 
grown beard. The body was at once re-interred, but it was due 

rf 1' 1 " Am it !> !Wl 

Pl&^ IV '' -* U2 


Fia. 45. 

Seven figures on the Cross of Kilklispeen, sliowing hoods to cloaks. 
From a drawing by O'Xcil. 

up, on various occasions, for inspection by the curious ; conse- 
quently, body and clothing were much injured; had they been 
preserved in their state as first discovered, no museum could have 
boasted of a more valuable example of early man and of his 

s£l (Pi i 



Fin. 46. 

Three figures on the Cross at Tiiam, showine; hoods to cloaks. 
l'"ro]n a drawingby (J'Neil. 

clothing. This "Irish Mammy," though covered with a glass 
case, 1ms, since its removal from the damp crypt of the Koyul 
Irish Academy to the dry, but equally dark and gloomy room in the 



Science and Art Museum, been rapidly drying and shrivelling, and 
is now little more than tattered ligaments and bones. The gloom 
surrounding it renders a sketch most difficult, in fact, the want 
of light and want of methodical arrangement in the National 
Collection of Antiquities would disgrace a mere provincial 
Museum. (Fig. 47.) 

" The Irish Mun 

Fid. 47. 
In the Collection of Antiquities of the K.I. A. 

Captain Cuellar's graphic description of the Irish, with whom 
he spent seven months after his escape from the wreck of one of 
the vessels of the Spanish Armada, cast away on the Irish coast, 
is as follows: — " They live in huts made of straw. The men 
have big bodies, their features and limbs are well made, and they 
are as agile as deer. They eat but one meal a day, and their 
ordinary food is oaten bread and butter. They drink sour milk, 
as they have no other beverage, but no water, although it is the 
best in the world. They dress in tight breeches and goatskin 
jackets, cut short, but very big, and wear their hair down to their 

e )' es -" 

In a sessions of Parliament, held in Dublin in the year 1295, 

an Act was passed minutely describing this •■ Coulhi " or 

" Glibbe " for its more effectual prohibition. A few of the Irish 
chieftains, who lived near the Pale, cut off their 
" Glibbes " — a memorial of the event was made 
in writing, but it may be observed that, until 
the commencement of the present century, 
these glibbes, or long locks of hair, and the old 
Irish mantle were to be seen in some of the 
most western parts of Ireland. This mode of 
wearing the hair may be studied by reference 
to fig. 48, drawn by a native artist about the 
year 1400. It represents the uncovered head 
and flowing locks of an archer of the period, 
in the Knockmoy fresco, and accords with the 

description of O'Neill's Gallowglasses, who accompanied their 

chief to the Court of Elizabeth. 

tilibu fiisl 



ing the 






in tl 

C:il:ili. s 



I. A. 



A curious entry in a MS. Survey of the County Sligo 
(Strafford's Inquisition) of 1683-0, calls for notice. When 
making mention of the townland of " Carowtampull," in the 
Parish of Emlaghfad, Barony of Corran, that denomination of 
land is described as having " a great scope of bogge and drown- 
ing places," which latter term is supposed to designate the holes 
and quagmires left when cutting away the peat for fuel. Several 
bodies have, from time to time, been dug up from considerably 
below the surface, the persons having evidently met their death 
through inability to extricate themselves from the treacherous 
depths. Tire corpse of " a lady," clad in antique costume, is 
stated to have been discovered, many years ago, on the summit of 
Benbulbin ; and so late as the year 1H24, the body of a man, 
completely clad in woollen garments of antique fashion, was 
found, six feet beneath the surface of a bog, in the parish of 

Fig. 49. 

Two hunters on the North Cross of Clonmacnuise, with conical caps. 
From a drawing by O'Xeil. 

Killory. No weapon was discovered near the corpse, but a long 
staff lay under it. The head dress, which soon fell into pieces, 
is said to have been a conical cap of sheepskin (fig. i'.t). So perfect 
was the body, when first discovered, that a magistrate was called to 
hold an inquiry about it. Fig. 50, drawn from a person clad in 
this antique suit (except the shoes, which are very small), found on 
the body of a man discovered in a bog inKillery, Co. Sligo, furnishes 
a representation of the costume of the native Irish about the 
fifteenth or sixteenth century. The cloak or mantle was of soft 
closely-woven brown cloth, the coat was also of a coarse brown 
woollen cloth. The trousers, or trews, of coarser material than 
the coat, consisted of two distinct parts differing both in colour 




Fig. 50. 
Ancient costume. Repro- 
duced from the Catalogue 

I-'iU. 51. 
'AVild Irishman.'' From 
Speed's Map o£ the 
Year, 1610. 

and texture. The legs must have fitted the limbs tightly, 
and these close fitting trousers are evidently the ancient 

Irish chequered or 
many coloured 
lower garments, 
explaining, by the 
way they were 
attached to the 
sacculated portion 
above, and the 
shoes below, an 
obscure expres- 
sion in Giraldus 
Cambrensis, when 
he says "The Irish 
wear breeches 
ending in shoes, 
or shoes ending in 
breeches." This 
suit, one of the 
most ancient spe- 
cimens of native 
manufacture which has come down to modern times, is woven 
with a twill, and, when carefully examined the warp is found 
to be composed of three plies, twisted 
together, while the weft consists of the 
untwisted woollen staple. This pecu- 
liarity of the twill resembles that figured 
in the cloak of the " Wild Irishman," 
engraved in Speed's map of 1610 
(figure 51 and figure 5'2 that of a " Wild 
Irishwoman"). The male figure also 
shows the "glibbe" fashion of wear- 
ing the hair, as well as the kind of 
leggings, or long boots, used by the 
peasantry at that time. 

In fig. 53, No. 1, taken from a rare 
engraving, purporting to be " drawn 
after the Quiche," preserved in the 
Bodleian library, although of a com- 
paratively modern date, exhibits an Irish 
warrior grasping an iron sword of the 
peculiar form of the ancient leaf-shaped 
blade of bronze, and clad in garments 
of probably a pattern quite as antique. In No. 2 we see the 
Irish " skene"; No. 3 represents the Irish Chief, O'More, in 

- ■_>».: 

Fig. 52. 

' Wild Irishwoman." From 
Speed's Map of the Year, 



the year 1600; No. 4 is an Irish agent employed hy the 
(rovernment to treat with the insurgent chiefs; *No 5 is a 
"kern" of the period, with mantle, and armed 'with an Irish 
axe ; No. 6 is a Scottish Highlander wearing the plaid. 

Fig. .33. 

Irish and Highland costumes, from MSS. and early printed books. 
Reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Arcli.uoiogy. 

Spenser's description of the Irish cloak has been often quoted 
"ii lit house for an outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel, and an apt 
cloak for a thief." He further observed that the cloak, being the 
simplest costume, constitutes the early dress of most uncivilized 

Le Gouz, a Frenchman — and therefore considered to be an 
impartial witness — who traversed a great portion of Ireland in 

I 2 


the year 1644, gives a minute description of the costume of the 
Irish, not omitting the mantle, so characteristic of the national 
costume: " The Irish, whom the English call 'wild,' have for 
their head-dress a little blue cap, raised two fingers breadth in 
front and behind, covering their head and ears. Their doublet 
has a long body and four skirts, and their breeches are a panta- 
loon of white frize, which they call trowsers. Their shoes, which 
are pointed, with a single sole, they call brogues. For cloaks 
they have five or six yards of frize, drawn round the neck, the 
body, and over the head, and they never quit this mantle, either 
sleeping, working, or eating. . . . The girls of Ireland, even 
those living in towns, have for their head-dress only a ribbon, 
and if married they have a napkin on the head, in the manner of 
the Egyptians. The body of their gowns comes only to their 
breasts, and when they are engaged in work they gird then- petti- 
coat, with their sash above the abdomen. They wear a hat and 
mantle, very large, of brown colour, of which the cape is of 
coarse woollen frize, in the fashion of the women of Lower 

Octavian de Palatio, a Florentine, Primate of Ireland hi 1480, 
is reputed to be the author of this curious Latin satire on the 
inhabitants of Armagh : — 

" Civitas Armachana 
Civitas Yana, 
Absque bonis moribus : 
Mulieres nudae 
Carnes crude 
Paupertas, in Aedebus." 

Which Harris thus translates : — 

" Armagh is notorious, 

For being vain-glorious, 
The men void of manners ; their spouses 

Go naked ; they cat 

Haw flesh for their meat, 
And poverty dwells in their houses." 

An even more startling picture is drawn by a Bohemian 
nobleman of the nakedness of the Ulster population. He was 
met at the door of the residence of the Irish Chief, O'Kane, bv 
sixteen women, all naked, except their loose mantles. Even the 
chief had nothing on except the same kind of cloak and shoes ; 
these he took off as soon as he entered the house, turned to his 
guest, and "desired him to put off his apparel, which he thought 
to be a burden to him." 

Maories wear blankets, Esquimaux skin dresses ; but directly 
they enter their huts every article of clothing is cast aside. This 


is essential to health, for the skin does not perspire freely in a 
confined space, especially when garments of hide are worn, and 
the human system imperatively demands periods of whole or 
partial nudity. As is usual with purblind enthusiasts, Christian 
missionaries, not content with essaying to change an old religion 
for a new one, have laboured to induce the natives to abandon 
their ancient and wholesome custom, the outcome of long cen- 
turies of experience, and in the ratio in which missionaries suc- 
ceed they kill off their converts by pulmonary consumption. It 
is the same all the world over, where civilization and the mis- 
sionaries come in contact with savage races. A writer describing 
South Africa says, that "On this subject the bulk of authority is 
to the effect that civilization at present harms the negro by 
exposing him to diseases he never knew before. In his savage 
state the black man goes naked, and becomes strong by a constant 
contact with the fresh air. The first thing done for the happy 
black heathen is to make bim wear uncomfortable clothing, in 
which he sweats and breeds poisonous microbes with horrible 
fluency. He never changes his clothing, and when he gets wet 
he knows no better than to dry them by sitting close to the fire. 
In this way he contracts fever, and undermines an otherwise 
robust constitution." 

One can thus readily understand how travellers in the Middle 
Ages, and even in Elizabethan times, were startled by the apparent 
nakedness of the Irish, who, on entering their low, heated and 
stifling habitations conformed to ancient custom and threw off 
their clothing. At the same time, it must be admitted that habit 
is everything, for Pillontier describes how little some savages 
regard exposure to cold. A savage lying down naked was asked 
if he was not cold. " Is your face cold ? " answered the man. 
The inquirer, of course, replied in the negative. " Neither do I 
feel cold," retorted the savage, " for 1 am all face." 

In a recent work on ancient Kgypt, there is a representation 
of a statuette from Gizah, of a woman crushing corn on a saddle- 
quern, and in the same state of nature in which Fynes Moryson 
describes Irish " young maidens stark naked, grinding corn with 
certain stones, to make cakes thereof." Captain Cuellar, before 
qunted, an officer belonging to the Spanish Armada, states that 
women, when at work indoors, were in a state of nature. On an 
island off the coast of Ireland a monastery was founded by 
St. Fechin in the seventh century, for the conversion of the 
inhabitants, who were then pagau. Cambrensis afterwards 
describes them as " homines nudi, qui non sciverunt nisi carnes 
et pisces ; qui non fuerant Christiaui, nee audiverunt nunquam 
<le Christo." Two "wild" Irish, picked up at sea in their cur- 
rach, are thus described by the same writer : " Habebant etiam, 


Hibernico more, comas perlongas et flavas trans humeros deorsurn 
corpus ex magna parte tegentes." 

In trying to picture to ourselves the life led by ancient Irish 
dwellers on the littoral, we are helped by accounts' descriptive of 
savages placed under similar circumstances in the present day. 

Tribes of Chukshes dwell in tents formed of skins on sand- 
dunes near the coast. These dunes are bestrewn with their 
broken implements and refuse of the chase. Although from 
trading with civilized nations the more important weapons of the 
natives are now made of metal, yet they still employ stone and 
bone implements. 

A shipwrecked sailor, who lived some time amongst the 
Fuegians, describes the men as expert at making flint arrow- and 
spear-heads. The women really do all the work, as the men, 
except when hunting, lie about the huts. If a dead seal were 
cast ashore, they gorged themselves on the raw, and sometimes 
putrid flesh and blubber. When they killed an animal in hunting, 
they fell upon it, cut it in pieces, and ate it raw. Sometimes the 
tribe, with which the sailor was for a time domesticated, would be 
on the move for days ; then perhaps would settle down for weeks. 
Occasionally they lived on the sea-shore, subsisting chiefly on 
raw shell-fish. 

Darwin gives a graphic account of some wretched tribes, 
eking out a miserable existence on the sea-shore of Tierra del 
Fuego, who supported themselves principally on shellfish, and 
who were totally ignorant of agriculture. His word-painting will 
enable us more faithfully to picture to ourselves the state of the 
population which once lived in a very similar manner on the 
Irish littoral : " The inhabitants, living chiefly upon shell-fish, 
are obliged constantly to change their place of residence ; but 
they return, at intervals, to the same spots, as is evident from 
the piles of old shells. . . . The Fuegian wigwam resembles in 
size and dimensions a haycock. It merely consists of a few 
broken branches stuck in the ground, and very imperfectly 
thatched on one side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The 
whole cannot be so much as the work of an hour, and it is only 
used for a few days. . . Whenever it is low water, they must 
rise to pick shell-fish from the rocks ; and the women, summer 
and winter ... sit patiently in their canoes, and, with a baited 
hairline, jerk out small fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating 
carcass of a putrid whale discovered, it is a feast ; such miserable 
food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi. Nor are they 
exempt from famine ; and, as a consequence, cannibalism is 
accompanied by parricide." 

If it be thought that this picture is overdrawn, it may be well 
to quote another description, by Darwin, of such of the inhabi- 


tants of Wollaston Island as came under his notice. The climate 
of the coast of Tierra del Fuego is certainly not milder than that 
of the western littoral of Ireland. While rowing to shore the 
party pulled alongside a canoe in which were six Fuegians, the 
most abject and miserable creatures Darwin ever beheld. "On the 
east coast the natives have guanaco cloaks, and on the west they 
possess sealskins. Amongst the central tribes the men generally 
possess an otter skin, or some small scrap about as large as a 
pocket handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their 
backs as low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast 
by strings, and, according as the wind blows, it is shifted from 
side to side. But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, 
and even one full-grown woman was absolutely so. These poor 
wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces 
bedaubed with white paint, their skin filthy and greasy, their 
hair entangled, their voices discordant, their gestures violent and 
without dignity. Viewing such men, one can hardly make one- 
self believe they are fellow-creatures and inhabitants of the same 
world. ... At night, five or six human beings, naked, and 
scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tempestuous 
climate, sleep on the wet ground coiled up like animals." 

Accounts like these may perhaps help us to form an idea of 
the life led by the sea-shore dwellers of ancient Erin. 

With regard to these degraded savages, Darwin, at the time, 
expressed the opinion that he considered them utterly incapable 
of being either civilized or Christianized; but many years afterwards 
he was so struck with the success of the missionaries in that part 
of the world, that he thereupon contributed annually to the mission 
funds. The failure of Christian missionaries in some tropical 
regions has been before alluded to ; so that this striking success 
in an almost antarctic region deserves the same prominent 

We have seen that a wide scope for investigation is opened up 
by examination of the refuse-heaps of the primitive inhabitants, 
whether occurring near the sites of settlements along the sea- 
shore, in caves, near earthen or stone forts, or lake-dwellings. Up 
to the present these latter have afforded most information, and 
proved most prolific in traces of the past life of their inhabitants. 
If careful examination be made of a kitchen-midden exposed to 
view by the simple drainage of water from the site of a lake- 
dwelling, the antiquities discovered afford tolerably correct and 
safe data from which to calculate the age of the structure. _ The 
most usual site of the refuse thrown out of the lake-dwelling is 
at the entrance to the stockade of the lake dwelling, where was 
formerly the landing stage or gangway leading to the shore. 
These refuse-heaps form a perfect mine of antiquities, for every 


fractured or useless article of household gear was thrown into 
them. Hence, the objects, though numerous, are generally in an 
imperfect condition. The accumulated mass of bones — invariably 
found in a broken state for extraction of the marrow — is, in some 
instances immense. It is estimated that at Lagore, in Meath, 
about two hundred tons were sold for manure ; three hundred 
tons were exhumed from the kitchen-midden of one of the lake- 
dwellings in Loughrea, county Galway ; and fifty tons from that 
of Ardakillen, county Eoscommon. 

In the course of demolishing Dumbell Rath, County Kilkenny, 
many objects of antiquarian interest were turned up together 
with an enormous quantity of animal bones, consisting chiefly of 
the remains of oxen, horses, deer, and swine ; in fact, such a 
mine of osseous remains was opened, that two labourers con- 
tracted with the tenant to perform the work of trenching the 
rath, receiving for remuneration only the bones they met with, 
and they earned, for a considerable period, from two to three 
shillings a-day, by the sale of bones at the rate of eightpence per 
stone. The majority of the bones were those of cattle, evidently 
slaughtered by the rath-dwellers for food ; the greatest quantity 
occurred at the bottom of the inner fosse, having been thrown in 
there apparently in order the more readily to dispose of them. 
The cooking-places, in which the flesh of these animals was 
dressed, consisted of ten small circular-shaped pits, not exceeding 
one foot and a-half in diameter, by two feet in depth ; they were 
not faced with stones, but had been simply dug out in the floor 
of the rath, and were full of charcoal, burned or calcined stones, 
and charred bones ; some of the deposits of ashes were almost 
white, whilst in others the wood-remains were not entirely 

It was evident, however, that the ancient occupants of Dum- 
bell Eath did not subsist entirely on animal food, for their 
granivorous propensities were sufficiently testified by the discovery 
of a number of querns or handmills of various sizes, for grind- 
ing corn. A considerable quantity of other rude domestic 
utensils were also brought to light. 

The resutt of the investigation of this rath-site furnished a 
not uninteresting glimpse of the past domestic economy of the 
inhabitants. We should now-a-days esteem their condition as 
very barbarous, notwithstanding that the ornamental work of 
their combs, brooches, and other articles of personal adornment 
proves them to have been acquainted with ideas of art, yet, their 
notions of comfort or of sanitary arrangements were limited in 
the extreme. It was evidently their habit to squat upon the 
ground around their rude hearths, and the area within the rath 
must have been in an indescribable, soaked, muddy, and trampled 


condition. Their meals concluded, they flung away the bones 
they had been gnawing, which were afterwards trampled into the 
muddy ground, or accumulated in immense heaps in the bottom 
of the ditch surrounding the dwelling, decomposing and emitting 
noxious effluvia. 

The discovery of articles of flint, stone, bone, bronze, and 
iron shows that the rath was used as a place of habitation not 
only in primitive, but also in medieval and even modern, times. 

Localities that had been at one time devoted to culinary pur- 
poses are occasionally discovered, sometimes in arable land, but 
more frequently covered by a considerable depth of bog. They 
are designated Falachda mi lu-inr, i.e. the cooking places of the 
Fians or warriors. The country people relate that these places 
were, in ancient days, frequented by the Feni or military forces 
of Erin, who spent part of every year in the pursuit of wild 
animals, forming camps in favourable positions. 

Edward Fitzgerald, in J'rstit/rs mvl Hrlim nfi/ir I'liim'itil 1'iiiml, 
gives a description of ancient cooking-places observed by him in 
the vicinity of Youghal : — 

" Identified with Fionn and the Fenians — relics of our 
primeval hunters, to be met with in numbers throughout the 
country, on uncultivated moors and mountain-lands — are the 
Fenian hearths or cooking-places known to our peasantry as 
' Fullocht Fionus.' These are mounds of broken stones, usually 
covered with the old Irish furze or heath ; and are always found 
near rivulets or springs, and in the neighbourhood of raths. 
The fullochts usually present the appearance of a horse-shoe in 
plan ; heaped all round an irregular circle, hollowed in tin 1 
centre, and open at one side. Several of them have been exca- 
vated, and in them an oaken cistern or vat has invariably been 
discovered. About two years and a-half ago, in company with 
Mr. William Hackett, of Midleton, we opened a fullocht, back of 
Bilberry Hill, on the lands of liallysimou, near Midleton ; and 
after clearing to about three feet under the surface, we discovered 
an oaken cistern seven feet six inches long, four feet wide, and 
twelve inches in depth. The timbers were about three inches in 
thickness, but instead of being composed of sawn planks, as 
usual, had all the appearance of being cleft ; the sides were 
grooved and the ends slipped down ; the bottom boards projected 
beyond the ends, and were also grooved to receive them ; all 
were fastened together with wooden brunnels. The cistern lay 
on a compact lied of marl, and its sides were surrounded with the 
same material. Some have given it as their opinion, that these 
cisterns were used by the Fenians for boiling or cooking, and 
that the stones were heated red hot, and thrown into them for 
that purpose ; but it seems to me far more probable that those 


heaps of burnt stones — Fullocht Fionns or Fenian Hearths, as 
the peasantry name them — were used in the same manner as in 
what are called ' Griosaohs,' in which, when properly heated, 
they covered ap and roasted their roots and spoils of the chase." 

In Waterford these cooking-places are called Fullogh Fea r 
which, it is stated, means the " boiling-place or fireplace of the 
deer." When describing these cooking-places in the county Water- 
ford, Mr. John Quinlan remarks that, wherever a well or spring 
develops into a good sized rivulet, you will not walk far before 
coming on an hemispherical mound having an opening towards the 
stream. In theirperfectstate these cooking-places present, in shape, 
the appearance of the sole of a horse's foot with the shoe on ; the 
shoe represented by the protecting wall ; the sole by the flagged 
floor of the hearth, formed of heavy sandstone blocks where the 
small stones were heated ; the heel by the opening in the protecting 
wall, with the descending step overlapping the trough, composed 
of an oak tree hollowed out, into which the meat was thrown. 
Both steps and trough have a decline towards the water. The 
theory which suggests itself is, that a great fire having been 
lighted, the round stones thus heated were easily rolled down the 
incline into the trough holding water from the stream ; that the 
stones, when cooled, were taken out, and replaced around the 
fireplace, to be again heated and returned to the trough until the 
water boiled, when the meat was put in and kept at boiling point 
by a continuance of the process. 

At the present time many tribes of savages cook their food in 
a very similar manner. In New Zealand the Maories, when pro- 
ceeding to cook, heat in the fire the hardest stones they can find. 
On these the food is laid, covered with leaves and earth, an 
opening being left through which water is poured. This, on 
Coming in contact with the heated stones, causes the formation 
of steam, by which means the food is cooked. 

On the land of Mr. James Byan, of Foulksrath Castle, 
county Kilkenny, a primitive cooking place was discovered, in 
which the early inhabitants of the country baked or roasted 
their food, in a pit lined and covered with small heated stones, 
over which, during the cooking, clay was heaped. In England, 
also, in some of the swamps in Essex and elsewhere, heaps of 
burnt clay are of frequent occurrence. In several places in 
Ireland, near the edge of bogs, piles of burnt stones are observ- 
able, more especially near the lake dwelling in Moynagh Lake, 
county Meath, a peculiarity noticed also near the sites of lake 
dwellings at Lrumkeery and other localities. Similar discoveries 
have been made in connexion with some lacustrine settlements 
in the Swiss lakes. There are, or were, eight such sites near 
Moynagh Lake. Remains of this class are common enough, as 


there is hardly an extensive moor in Ireland on which may not 
he seen, at least, one heap. 

The name of the ancient Irish war-goddess, Morrigan, is 
found connected with many of these fire-places, particularly 
those of great size. One historical site was situated at Tara ; 
another, near a fairy mound in Tipperary, is mentioned in an 
Irish tract, styled the "Little Dialogue," contained in the 
"Book of Lismore," and is of interest, as it demonstrates the 
fact that these cooking-places were always made within easv 
distance of a good supply of water. Two heroes, having erected 
a hut and made a cooking-place, went to a neighbouring stream 
to wash their hands. " Here is the site of a fulacht," said one. 
" True," replied the other, "and this is a fiilarht-na-Mnnii/nn 
[i.e. Morrigan's Hearth), which is not to be made without water," 
i.e. there should be a supply of water near at hand. 

In the summer of 1887, when a road was being formed 
through a bog in the townland of Knockaunbaun, in the county 
Sligo, traces of numerous fire-places were discovered at from five 
to seven feet beneath the present surface. There was a pave- 
ment of small stouts for the purpose of forming the hearth ; six 
inches of black mould lay between the paving and red clay. The 
labourers cut across the track of a group of small fires, and also 
disclosed a large one, the hearth in the latter being semicircular 
in shape, and thirty feet in diameter. Under the latter lay three 
cartloads of paving stones, but from the combined action of tire 
and water they all crumbled in pieces when shovelled up to the 
surface. In sinking a drain the site of another large fireplace, 
forty feet in length, became exposed. It was paved with stones 
of the same kind, covered with a quantity of charcoal and ashes. 

Keating, in his fabulous History, thus describes the ancient 
custom of the Irish : — " The method of dressing their meat was 
very particular, for when they had success in hunting it was 
their custom in the forenoon to send their huntsman, with what 
they had killed, to a proper place where there was plenty of 
wood and water ; there they kindled great fires, into which their 
way was to throw a number of large stones, where they were to 
continue till they were red hot ; then they applied themselves to 
dig great pits in the earth, into one of which, upon the bottom, 
they used to lay some of these hot stones as a pavement, upon 
them they would place the raw flesh, bound up hard in green 
sedge and bullrushes. Over these bundles were fixed another 
layer of hot stones, then a quantity of flesh, and this method 
was observed until the pit was full. In this manner their llesh 
was sodden or stewed till it was fit to eat, then they uncovered it, 
and when the hole was emptied they began their meal." 

In the year 1.HG4, when a farmer at Ardnahue, county t'arlow, 


was sinking a pit for gravel, he observed that in one place the 
subsoil was mixed with bones in a fragmentary condition, and 
was also of a darker, richer, and softer description than the sur- 
rounding earth. So struck was he with its apparent richness 
that he utilized the earth as manure to the extent of some seven 
hundred cart-loads. A sample was sent to a chemist, who gave 
it as his opinion that it was worth nine shillings a ton. This 
stratum of rich earth filled what had evidently been a trench of 
irregular curved shape, with occasional offshoots of minor extent, 
the whole being interspersed with animal bones consisting of the 
remains of oxen, horses, dogs, sheep, pigs, goats and fowl, together 
with portions of several crania ; in many instances a fractured 
depression in the centre of the forehead indicating that death had 
been caused by a blow from some heavy blunt instrument. 
There was nothing on the surface, or in the appearance of the 
field, to indicate the existence of this "midden." The trench, 
made in following the layer of rich earth, was, in some places, at 
least ten feet deep, and measured from two to six feet in breadth. 
At the bottom of the trench, in several spots, stones disposed in 
a circular form were found, evidently constituting hearths ; the 
•centre was filled with charcoal, in which were " clinkers." 
Several stone-hatchets, portions of a quern, bone-pins, fragments 
■of combs, of rude pottery, and pieses of iron, together with the 
prevalence of the before -mentioned clinkers, showed that the 
deposit belonged to a comparatively recent period. 

Ordinary bones of animals burn freely ; one-third of their con- 
stituents is combustible ; and there is oil and marrow in the 
interior of the larger bones. Bones long buried may, as has been 
already shown, still retain a large proportion of animal matter. 
In an article published in 1825, Dr. Hart describes a bonfire of a 
heap of bones of the extinct Irish deer, lighted in celebration of 
the battle of Waterloo. The remains of the long extinct gigantic 
deer gave out as good a blaze as the bones of horses, then usually 
employed on such occasions. The remarks of the French traveller, 
Latocnaye, in his "Promenade en Irelande," published in 1797, 
regarding fires of bones made by children on certain holidays, is 
corroborated by a passage in a Latin MS. in the Harleian Collec- 
tion, of which the following is the purport : — " On St. John's Eve 
the boys in some districts collect bones and other refuse, which 
they burn together, and thence great smoke is produced in the 
air." This refers to the custom as then prevailing in parts of 
England ; it is stated that similar fires are still made on St. John's 
Day in some of the most remote districts in France. 

It is quite possible that the masses of half calcined bones 
found in the sites of ancient funeral pyres, in the kitchen-middens 
of raths, cashels, lake dwellings, and seaside settlements, are the 


remains of fuel so employed in the cooking of primitive times. 
Fires made of bones are still used by savage tribes. Even 
Darwin expresses surprise at the skill with which his guide in the 
Falkland Islands substituted the skeleton of a bullock recently 
killed, for ordinary brushwood, of which there was a scarcity, and 
mentions the hot fire made by the bones. He was also informed 
that, in winter, beasts killed by the natives were often roasted by 
means of burning the bones belonging to them. 

The following passage from Herodotus describes this custom 
as being practised in most remote times : — " As Scythia is very 
barren of wood, they (i.e. the Bcythians) have the following con- 
trivance to dress the flesh of the victim. Having flayed the 
animal, they strip the flesh from the bones, and, if they have 
them at hand, they throw it into certain pots made in Scythia, 
and resembling the Lesbian caldrons, though somewhat larger ; 
under these a fire is made with the bones. If these pots cannot 
be procured, they enclose the flesh with a certain quantity of 
water in the paunch of the victim, and make fire with the bones 
as before. The bones being very inflammable, and the paunch 
without difficulty being made to contain the flesh separated from 
the bone, the ox is thus made to dress itself, which is also the 
case with other victims. When the whole is ready, he who sacri- 
fices, throws before him with some solemnity the entrails, and the 
more choice pieces. They sacrifice different animals, but horses 
in particular." 

Resources equally extraordinary are employed in eastern and 
other countries where there is great scarcity of fuel. In Arabia, 
in parts of Persia, India, and the west of Ireland, dried cowdung 
is utilized. The prophet Ezekiel was, according to his _ own 
account, ordered to cook his food in a most extraordinary 
manner (chap, iv., r. 12 and 15) ; and from chap, xxiv., v. 5, the 
inference may be fairly drawn that the burning of bones, in lieu 
of better fuel, was not a very unusual circumstance in Judsea, as 
the prophet is directed to take the choice of the flock, and burn 
the bones under it, and to boil it well. Of a truth " that which 
hath been is that which shall be ; and that which hath been done 
is that which shall be done ; and there is no new thing under the 



Period during which Christianity has reigned — insignificant when compared 
with that occupied by pre-Christian religion— Invention of writing. Is 
the Irish Ogham alphabet ancient or modern ? — Irish literature a mere 
literary protoplasm — Bears undoubted marks of Christian Adaptors, 
Redactors and Tamperers— Legend of Lough Xeagh— St. Fahan — the Tadn 
B6 Cualnge — Ossian and St. Patrick — Value of stories best judged by the 
Archaeologist — Myths and Tales invented to point a moral — The Baker and 
artificial rain — The Children of Lir — Borrowed Tales — The Hare and the 
Oyster — The Irish Chief and King Midas — Thersites and Conan — Balor and 
Perseus — Hercules and Coolin — Enumeration of "Wild Legends — All divide 
into two periods, one early, one late, and were clerically pruned — Art of 
Early Man confined to linear decorative patterns — Exception, the extra- 
ordinary life-like pictures of the Cavemen of Gaul — Otherwise Irish and 
Continental Ornamentation the same — Mistakes and Forgeries — Descrip- 
tion of various Rock-Scribings — The most curious being Cup-and-Ring 
Markings — Their probable significance. 

The Irish reading, as well as the non-reading, public are moved 
by impulse rather than by reason, and in nothing is this more 
strikingly exemplified than when the genuineness of so-called 
ancient Irish history is, for a moment, called in question. In 
this trait they do not stand alone, for have we not the episode of 
the hot-headed Welshman, who nearly killed a well-known 
archaeologist because he had the temerity to doubt, and even to 
dispute, the allegation, that Adam and Eve spoke Welsh in the 
Garden of Eden. Every savage race (and, as a matter of fact, 
every civilized race) considers itself the highest and the best, 
just as, in religion, each sect regards itself as the elect of man- 
kind and of Heaven ; even the most amiably disposed individuals 
are not above this weakness. Some few might even feel inclined 
to sing, with approval, the following verse, which has, however, 
not yet found its way into a Christian hymnal : — 

" "We arc the Sweet Elected few, 
May all the rest bo damned, 
There's room enough in Hell for yon ; 
We won't have Heaven crammed." 


From this it is certain that — 

" Hell were too small if man were judged by man." 

Thus, to attempt to stem the strong current of Irish popular 
opinion, even in matters so academical as archaeological theories, 
is by no means a pleasant task, for although, in general, every- 
one is most anxious to assert, and often succeeds in convincing 
himself, that he is only anxious to learn the truth ; yet, when 
the truth is disclosed, if it he contrary to his preconceived 
impressions, a Spirit, not of receptivity, but of impatience and 
intolerance is displayed. Although the object may be simply to 
put forward the correct aspect of the matter, the views of other 
writers are thereby necessarily controverted ; for it is impossible 
to demonstrate the fallacy of certain popular ideas without, at 
the same time, demonstrating that their professors were deluded, 
and no one, thus situated, likes to be told, much less to be 
convinced, that he is in error. 

We have been given very sound advice as to the kind of 
foundation we ought to select, when we desire to erect a building 
able to resist both the ravages of time, and the violent assaults of 
floods and of storms. In a material building we seek to lay the 
foundations upon a rock, so in constructing a theory we ought to 
seek a firm foundation of ascertained fact. Further, the best 
evidence that our theory is true is, that new facts, as they arise, 
easily find their place in it, and are at home in it. If the theory 
is false, new facts are with difficulty forced into relation with it, 
and in time, as they become more numerous, they disintegrate, 
and finally completely overthrow the theory. If, on the other 
hand, the original theory is true, it expands and grows naturally 
and easily by the assimilation of new facts. For instance, 
Petrie's theory of the origin of the Round Towers still flourishes, 
but it has adapted itself, in several minor particulars, to more 
recent observations. Since the publication of Petrie's Essay, 
the progress of arclneological investigation has been almost at 
a standstill; and until the huge mass of undigested matter, 
now accumulated in the pages of the Proceedings of learned 
societies, has been assimilated, the mere recording of discoveries 
has perhaps, for the time, gone far enough. Archaeology is 
suffering from a plethora of •'finds," the relative importance 
and age of which, with regard to the date of the earliest of 
the round towers, have not vet been determined. The proper 
standpoint and method of investigation have been lost sight 
of; one part of the puzzle should first be arranged in proper 
ortler, and the remainder must in due time drop into the 
ri'dit position. Practical experience in actual exploration is 
necessary to form a good archaeologist ; no amount of head 


knowledge can make up for deficiency of spade knowledge, for as 
in the quarry the pick of the workman brings to light remains 
of animals and plants long since passed away, so on prehistoric 
sites the spade of the archaeologist turns up traces of the works of 
early man and of his primitive surroundings. Examination of 
articles is preferable to mere book knowledge, and careful study 
of any large collection of antiquities will impart more insight 
into the manufacturing skill of the ancient inhabitants of the 
land than can be otherwise obtained. 

As the writer has elsewhere observed, the period during which 
Christianity has reigned in Ireland is comparatively insignificant 
when compared with that occupied by pre-Christian religion or 
religions. It is strange that of this aspect of the prehistoric 
past we know so little. Our knowledge of it may be compared 
to a rivulet, our ignorance to the ocean. How long the pre- 
historic period may have lasted, or how long it may have 
taken to develop the state of things apparent when Erin first 
comes under authentic historical notice is matter for conjec- 
ture ; all that can be inferred is that it must have covered 
a long period of time, immeasurably longer than from the 
introduction of Christianity to the present day. Archaeologists 
may wrangle as to whether iron was introduced before or after the 
commencement of the Christian era ; the exact century of its 
introduction is, for practical purposes, unimportant ; let it suffice 
tbat its appearance belongs to historic times as regards the 
British Isles. There can be no more conclusive test of the exact 
state of prehistoric civilization than that which is afforded by the 
general knowledge and use of metals. 

Pride in ourselves and pride in our ancestors are common 
foibles of human nature ; occurrences which redound- to the 
glory either of the individual or of the community are am- 
plified and dwelt upon, whilst incidents derogatory to our 
prestige are glossed over or ignored. O'Donovan relates how 
some of his former most intimate friends became his most bitter 
enemies on his expressing grave doubts regarding the authen- 
ticity of ancient Irish history. 

Many ideas, of which we can just trace the existence now- 
a-days, were prevalent in times more ancient, and especially on 
that border-line where the old creeds of Paganism had not ceased 
to be the superstitions of the newer Christianity. The bards and 
chroniclers of Erin doubtless possessed accounts of some of the 
comparatively later settlements, probably more or less founded 
on tradition, and having more or less a substratum of truth ; 
but on the arrival of the Christian missionaries, and their 
acquisition of the literary (if any) and traditional sources of 
information, the ancient heathen vernacular histories, tales, and 


poems became embedded in a mosaic of miracle-stories and 
classic legends, so that it is now extremely difficult to separate 
the chaff from the gram. This amalgam of Pagan and Christian 
thought, amongst other absurdities, traces the pedigree of the 
first settlers in Ireland up to Adam. The assertion that Adam 
was the first man is open to question ; there must also, to put it 
in the mildest form, be grave doubts regarding the authenticity 
ot the numerous connecting-links in the alleged chain of un- 
broken descent from our putative parent ; besides the question 
as to whether the whole race is to be traced to a single pair, or 
whether several examples appeared contemporaneously, remains 
still open to scientific investigation. At present the weight of 
opinion undoubtedly favours a monogenetic theory, and many of 
the best scientists are as strongly monogenists, as are the most 
ardent upholders of a literal interpretation of Biblical phrase- 

There is no credible tradition, no authentic history, to tell 
when man first inhabited the land. Like the mature man, who 
retains no recollection of his earliest infantine days, so the 
aggregate of men, which now constitutes the nation, has retained 
no remembrances of its earliest years, and but little of the 
successive stages through which it has passed before " easting off 
the swaddling clothes of ignorance and barbarism," if it has 
even yet done so. How could it lie otherwise, when late dis- 
coveries have proved that man inhabited Europe before the 
occurrence of many of those great physical changes which have 
given the Continent its present aspect? And as the same evidence 
demonstrates that man was the contemporary of animals which 
are now extinct, it is not too much to assume that his existence 
dates back at least as far as, or even before, the epoch of the 

The invention of writing gave durability to the record of 
impressions ; that which was hitherto the sole possession of the 
brain of a single individual, could not only be imparted to the 
whole human race, but could be stereotyped for ever ; or, as 
Carlyle tersely puts it, " in books lies the soul of the whole past 
time : the articulate audible voice of the past, when the body 
and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a 
dream. . . . All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been, 
is lying, as in magic preservation, in the pages of books." 

The first attempts at writing, amongst all nations, and in all 
ages, are of the ideographic or pictorial type ; this primitive system 
became phonetic, then syllabic, and finally alphabetical. Even 
tho characters which we use now-a-days when writing are easily 
discerned to be of pictorial origin ; and the designation by which 
we describe the complete collection of characters is composed by 



the words Aleph and Beth, the former had originally the form of 
an ox's head, the latter that of a tent. 

In early days, all arts, and in later times that of writing, 
were surrounded with mystery by their professors, were pro- 
secuted amid conjurations and supposed magic, and looked on 
with awe by the superstitious mass of the people, even as, in the 
present day, information reduced to writing is regarded by 
uncultured savages, who cannot comprehend that what has been 
spoken may be transmitted, retained, and repeated, again and 
again, for an indefinite period. 

Ogham, the earliest written character known to have been 
used in Ireland, is certainly not pictorial. It must candidly be 
admitted that the Ogham alphabet strikes the unbiassed observer 
as a rearrangement and adaption of an older type of alphabet 
divided into groups of vowels and consonants, each letter consist- 
ing of a line, or lines, variously placed, with regard to a single 
stem line, or the edge of the substance on which it is cut. 

Ogham inscriptions generally begin at the bottom of the stone 
on which they are incised, and read from left to right Looking 
at an upright Ogham inscribed monument, one will, in general, 
observe groups of incised strokes, which naturally divide them- 
selves into four different groups : — 

1. Groups of lines to the left of the edge or stern line. 

2. Groups of lines to the right of the edge or stem line. 

3. Groups of lines of longer strokes than in groups (i) and (ii) crossing 

the edge or stem line obliquely. 

4. Groups of short strokes or notches upon the edge or stem line. 

The characters comprised in — 

1. Stand for the letters B, L, F, S, X, according as they number. 1, 2, 

3, 4 or 6 strokes. 

2. Stand for E, J), T, C, Q or CU, according as they number 1, 2, 3, 4 

or 5 strokes. 

3. Stand for $f, G, XG, ST, ZR, according as they number 1, 2, 3, 4 

or 5 strokes. 

4. Stand for the vowels A, 0, V, E, I, according as they number 1, 2, 

3, 4 or 5 notches. 

Besides these twenty characters, there are a few used .to denote 
diphthongs, and rarely employed, as also signs for the letters 
P, X, and 1'. 

Whether before the introduction of Christianity the Irish 
possessed an alphabet, differing thus from that in use in Europe, 
is a question which has been debated with acrimony by students 
of Irish Archaeology, for with this early knowledge, or want of 
knowledge, of letters, is involved, to a great degree, the genuine- 


ness or untrustworthiness of ancient Irish history. Those who 
maintain that the Irish were in ante-Christian times really in 
possession of such a unique alphabet appeal to the authority of 
Irish MSS. which state that this alphabet was introduced into 
the kingdom some thirteen centuries before the birth of Christ. 
They also refer to the MS. Irish Romances, which contain 
allusions to Ogham, described in them as employed either for the 
purpose of conveying intelligence, or for sepulchral inscriptions ;* 
they point to existing monuments presenting Ogham characters, 
and assert that they belong to a very remote and Pagan period. 
On the other hand those Irish archaeologists who dissent from all 
this, allege that the accounts of the invention and introduction 
of Ogham into Ireland bear the most transparent marks of 
badly invented fiction, and contend that its very systematic 
arrangement demonstrates that its inventors possessed advanced 
grammatical knowledge, and were evidently acquainted with 
alphabets of the ordinary kind from which they drew the idea of 
the Ogham alphabet. With regard to the testimony of the Irish 
romances, they deny their antiquity, and assert that a very 
considerable number of still existing Ogham monuments indubi- 
tably belong — judging by internal evidences and the emblems 
and inscriptions which they bear — to Christian times. 

In late Irish MSS., accounts of the erection of Ogham- 
inscribed stones over the bodies of the dead are by no means 
uncommon. In one of the MSS. it is recounted that on the 
arrival of St. Mochaomhog in Ireland, the children of Lir, who, 
centuries before, had been metamorphosed into swans, were 
disenchanted, and when dying, were baptised by the Saint. 
"Their tombstone was raised over their tomb, and their Ogham 
names were written, their lamentation rites were performed, and 
Heaven was obtained for their souls through the prayers of 
Si. Mochaomhog." The Saint was, however, not always so 
'prayerfully inclined. He " cursed fervently " the King, who had 
tried to take possession of " The Sons of Lir," and " he bestowed 

*■ For instance, on one decision, the mythical hero < 'iirhullin ;('oolin;, when 
traversing a forest, saw an inscribed pillar-stone, and hung round it a verse in 
Ogham character carved by him upon a withe. The same hero is elsewhere 
rcpresented as sending information to Maeve, Queen of Cunuaught, by means 
of cutting or scribing on wands. 

The son of a Scottish chief is described as cutting Ogham characters on the 
handle of a spear. In a.u. -1 OS, Core, son of the King of Minister, was driven 
by his father into exile. He- fled to the court of a Scottish chief, hut before 
appearing in the king's presence, an Ogham inscription on his shield was 
discovered, and deciphered by a friend, who thus saved the prince's life ; the 
inscription being to the effect that, should lie arrive at the Scottish court by 
iiay. his head was to be cut oil' before evening; and if by night, it was to he 
cut off before morning. 


reproaches and maledictions" on him, whilst "shortness of life 
and Hell " were the portion he allotted to the King's wife. 
Needless to say both the excommunicated died shortly after. 

Ogham-writing has been found principally in the form of 
.tomb-inscriptions, and does not seem capable of being adapted to 
chronicle elaborate and detailed histories, or long flowing poetic 
compositions. Despite the tract in the Book of Ballymote, well- 
known to antiquaries, elucidatory of the Ogham alphabet, early 
essayists, in attempting to read these inscriptions could make no 
progress. The ordinary modern method of deciphering, which 
assumes that the letters to be unravelled, are divided into words, 
is inapplicable to the Ogham character, which is written continu- 
ously, like uncial characters, beginning, as already stated, in 
general from the bottom, and is read upwards from left to right. 
Yet a key was discovered, for, in course of investigation, the strokes 
of a group which occurred in almost every inscription were identi- 
fied as reading Maqi, the ancient genitive form of Mac, a son. 
This conclusion was afterwards corroborated from a source not 
then known to be in existence, the monumental stones of Wales, 
inscribed in Eoman characters, with corresponding Oghams. 

In Irish Ogham inscriptions there is, in general, only the 

dry formula, " the son of " ; the first 

name being usually in the genitive, the word "stone" understood. 
The brevity of these mortuary notices is well illustrated by the 
account of the death and burial of a celebrated warrior alleged to 
have been slain about a.d. 300, which concludes thus : — "There is 
a pillar-stone on the earn and an Ogham is inscribed on the end 
of the pillar-stone which is in the earth, and what is on it is, 
F.ochaid Airgtlwch. here" 

Though more or less distributed over the kingdom, the greater 
number of inscriptions, as yet discovered, have been found in the 
south, principally in the counties of Kerry and Cork ; the stones 
appear to be, for the most part, sepulchral, or commemorative ; 
yet, though several proper names occurring on Ogham monuments 
are to be met in the Irish Annals, it is doubtful whether many 
have been so identified as to give the exact date of the period in 
which the individual lived whose memory it was intended thus to 

The absorbing interest which Ogham inscriptions at one time 
excited is now on the decline. At first it was thought that the 
method of writing which they displayed was of great antiquity. 
Indeed some believed there were present in these inscriptions 
traces of a very primitive form of Celtic, but the tendency of recent 
research has been to bring their date down to more recent years, 
whilst the growing belief that they are often designedly obscure, 
or cryptic, has latterly discouraged inquiry. It is obvious that 

or; //a.u w'R/T/Ni;. \m 

if purposes of secrecy were desired, this cipher might be made more 
abstruse by varying the number of strokes, as by commencing with 
two or more at the commencement of each series or groups (see 
p. 130). A great number of cryptic specimens of this class are 
given in the tract on Ogham, in the lUml; ,,f Hulhimnte, but they 
are all resolvable into the original key cipher, in which each set 
of five commences with a single stroke. 

At the end of the tract on Ogham before mentioned, then' 
are about eighty different forms of the alphabet, exhibiting 
thus the various modifications to which it had been subjected. 
It is useless to assert that Irish grammarians, who used and 
wrote about Ogham, were unacquainted with Scandinavian or 
Anglo-Saxon runes; for amongst these Ogam alphabets are two 
Runic alphabets, one styled " The Ogham of the men of Lochan," 
the other " The Ogham of the foreigners." Thus Ogham was 
framed by persons acquainted with the later and developed 
Runic alphabet. A few antiquaries were embued with a violent 
prejudice against the genuineness of Ogham texts, engendered by 
the fanciful and absurd speculations which passed muster as 
antiquarian learning. Petric would probably have been glad to 
have recalled his challenge to the M mister archaeologists to prove 
that the Ardmore inscription was alphabetic writing of any kind, 
whilst O'Donovan bore candid testimony to the authenticity of 
some inscriptions which he had previously impugned. 

Many Ogham-inscribed monumental stones are, in general, 
of a material foreign to the district in which they have been 
discovered, and are usually formed of sandstone ; this occurring 
so frequently would tend to show that a block of sandstone was 
sought elsewhere and brought to the required place, as being 
deemed more convenient for working upon. The old sculptors 
and architects appear to have possessed some knowledge of the 
chemical constituents of the materials with which they worked, 
for cashels and the sustaining walls of passages and chambers — 
whether in tumuli, cams, or soutcrrains — may be formed of 
limestone, or of the nearest description of stone available, hut 
when the wish was to decorate a flagstone, careful selection was 
made not only of a durable, but also of an easily-worked material. 

The stones upon which Ogham inscriptions have been found 
embedded in the walls of churches demonstrate that they were 
merely utilised as building material, for some of them were placed 
in positions which prevented their inscriptions being read, and 
other stones were hammer-dressed on the angles, portions of the 
inscriptions having been knocked off in order to produce an angle 
suitable for the new purpose to which it was devoted. 

Thus it is alleged that at a period when knowledge of Ogham 
had been lost, or when the memorials had ceased to command 


the veneration of succeeding generations, these monuments were 
sometimes appropriated by Christians. A cross is reputed to have 
been carved on the uninscribed end of one stone, which had been 
originally fastened in the earth, and the stone was then turned 
upside down, the original top with its Ogham inscription being 
buried in the ground. A writer holding other views, alleges that 
he found a cross-inscribed monument, and into the sacred symbol 
some of the Ogham scores had been sunk, thus demonstrating 
that the latter had been cut subsequent to the sculpturing of the 
cross. If the question be asked why these monuments do not all 
bear the sign of the cross, supposing that they all belong to 
Christian times, the suggestion may be hazarded that, in early 
times, such may not have been the custom, whilst it is. quite 
possible, even very probable, that some of them may be the monu- 
ments of Pagans, as Paganism survived in Ireland for centuries 
after the advent of St. Patrick. 

Of the many Ogham-inscribed stones which have been dis- 
covered in the souterrains of raths, few bear the sacred symbol of 
the Christian faith. These stones were merely used as materials 
by the rath-builders, as were their companions by church-builders, 
perhaps so late as the tenth or eleventh century — and were drawn 
from more ancient monuments, probably from old disused graves 
or graveyards, and utilised by architects who felt no reverence 
for such memorials. 

There is also a class of irregular rock-scorings, some of which, 
as at Loughcrew, Dowth, Carrowmore, and New Grange, may 
be genuine Ogham, although roughly and irregularly executed, 
whilst others are of a character which precludes their classification 
under this heading. 

Oghamic scribings have been found on bone-pins and other 
ornaments from the lake-dwellings of Ballinderrv and Strokes- 
town ; the scorings seem to resemble runic characters, but it could 
not be authoritatively decided that they were actually runes ; and 
no archaeologist has been able, as yet, to interpret the seemingly 
well-marked scorings. A stone axe, on which is incised an Ogham 
inscription, was also discovered in another locality. 

Vallancey makes mention of a silver brooch, bearing on it an 
inscription in Ogham character, discovered in the year 1806, by 
a peasant turning up the ground on the hill of Ballyspellan, in 
the barony of Galmoy, county Kilkenny. The front of the 
brooch is ornamented by a device of entwined serpents; the back 
presents four lines in Ogham character ; all the words, with one 
exception, are proper names ; the brooch is identified as belonging 
to the latter part of the eleventh or commencement of the twelfth 

In the present state of knowledge on the subject, it is rash to 


hazard an opinion as to the age in which Irish Ogham mortuary 
inscriptions were incised ; it may, however, be suggested that the 
period of their employment extends from probably the fifth 
century a.d., to the eighth century, and likely much later; for 
Romano-British Ogham bilingual inscriptions appear, judging by 
the Latin lettering, to date certainly not earlier than from 
a.d. 400 to 500. 

Even in modern days, we find that savage peoples use a 
character which conveys the meaning intended, although it can- 
not be called writing. A friend of the writer's, when on the 
Geological Survey of Western Australia, about the year 1880, 
had a message conveyed several hundred miles, from the interior 
to the coast, by means of various shaped notches and other 
devices cut on a stick by a native. These Australian message or 
"talking sticks" are very curious, for they belong to a people 
devoid of what we look upon as alphabetical knowledge, and yet 
the notches, lines, and devices are interpreted by the recipient in 
the sense intended by the sender. In any ease, even to the initi- 
ated, it must have been a task of no small difficulty to read them ; 
to commence with, the deciphering was probably accompanied 
with an oral explanation as to what special fact or record was 
referred to, and what the different symbols represented, and, unless 
thus explained, could not be read by the uninitiated. This given, 
the rest must have been comparatively easy. One rudimentary 
Australian letter, described in the Siilnrilin/ llcricir, consisted of a 
piece of wood, five inches long by one broad, painted red with blood 
and ochre, with a neck round which a string was fastened. At the 
very head is incised what resembles a capital T ; beneath this 
is a symbol like a large figure seven, with a crescent moon on 
each side, and below there is a broad arrow. On the left-hand 
side beneath is a row of figures of seven. On the back are many 
slanting notches, two straight lines, and the field below is filled 
with a herring-bone pattern. 

This piece of wood is a message-stick of the AYootka tribe, 
who live in the northern territory of South Australia, and was 
carried by one of the tribe on a commercial mission to a distant 
tribe called Nootkas. The meaning of the hieroglyphics is as 
follows :— The markings on the back are the messenger's cre- 
dentials, /./'. the tribal totems ; for if he bore a stick whose 
meaning he could not interpret, he would lie speared by the 
tribe to whom he went. Beside the heraldic marks on the 
back are two straight lines which denote that the messenger is 
carrying two long and heavy spears as objects of barter. The 
figure seven stands for a fighting weapon, a kind of wooden axe. 
The crescents denote war boomerangs ; the T and the broad 


arrow mean that the messenger is to stop at the station of a 
squatter who uses this mark as a brand for his stock, where he 
is to leave the heavy boomerangs and spears. The crowd of 
sevens means that he is to get as many wooden axes from the 
other tribe as he can. Triangular marks represent the number 
of days during which he may be absent. Thus, the whole 
message on the stick reads : — " The Woofcka tribe to the Nootka 
tribe. The bearer carries boomerangs and spears. These he is 
to barter with the Nootkas for wooden axes. His leave of 
absence is for a week. He is to find the Nootkas near Thomp- 
son's station." 

The following elucidatory anecdote was forwarded by a cor- 
respondent interested in the subject. He states that, so late as 
the year 1860, a gentleman living near Canterbury had an 
illiterate bailiff, who kept the general as well as the harvest 
accounts of a farm, consisting of about 250 acres, by means of 
squared hazel wands, about four feet in length, on which he cut 
notches and other devices. At the end of harvest he gave an 
account to his master of the number and size of the loads on 
carts which left the fields, the money which was drawn and 
paid from time to time, together with the balance remaining due. 
An incident during the hop-picking season in the south of 
England, in the middle of the century, shows to what a late date 
tallies were employed. A farmer is described as " girdled with 
long bits of narrow wood, like so many skewers : he was stop- 
ping before one group after another, and cutting notches on 
these tallies, and corresponding ones on that each hop-picker 
presented to him." The notches on the tallies were by way of a 
memorandum of the number of baskets filled by each individual. 

Among the Fijians, men sent with messages used certain 
mnemonic aids; and the New Zealanders conveyed information to 
distant tribes, during times of war, by marks on gourds. Amongst 
savages, twigs bent or broken on trees, or bushes beside the path, 
or broken off and left in certain conventional positions on or 
beside the track, convey messages and warnings easily interpreted 
by others following those who left these symbols, placed so as to 
impart information, as to the direction to be followed, contin- 
gencies to be expected, dangers to be guarded against, the 
numbers of friends or of enemies, or other incidents and intelli- 
gence. Is not this the genesis of writing ? 

In the present day we can hardly realize the condition of the 
many past generations who obtained any information or educa- 
tion they possessed without the aid of books, by mere oral 
instruction and traditional stories, through the medium of a 
tongue, if not now extinct, yet in a moribund condition, and 


which possesses very little, either ancient or modern, published 
literature in the ordinary acceptance of the term — 

" 'Tis fading, oh, 'tis fading, like the leaves upon tlie trees, 
In murmuring tone 'tis dying, like the wail upon the breeze, 
'Tis swiftly disappearing, as footprints on the shore, 
Where the Harrow, and the Erne, and Loch Swilly's waters roar - , 
Whore the parting sunheam kisses Loch Corrib in'the 'West, 
And Oi-ean, like a mother, clasps the Shannon to her breast." 

Spasmodic efforts have been made to arrest its decline, and 
its study has been introduced by the Intermediate Education 
Commissioners into their examinations, a mere waste of time for 
ordinary schoolboys, for it maybe asked whether Irish is exten- 
sively used, or whether its literature has any real value in the 
current of every-day life. The most ardent enthusiast for the 
study of the Irish language can hardly maintain that it is spoken 
by a large or important section of the population, but the question 
of its literature stands on a different footing. The language of 
Athens or of Rome may be well worth attention long alter it 
has ceased to be spoken ; but in the ease of Irish literature a 
distinction must be drawn between the Latin MSS. produced 
in the Irish monasteries which spread the fame of their scribes 
over Europe, and Gaelic MSS. of a later date. There are, no 
doubt, old writings, i.e. occasional meagre insertions of the Gaelic 
language, short treatises introduced into Latin MSS., as well as 
inscriptions in Ogham character. These however, cannot be 
classed under the head of literature. Putting on one side early 
Latin MSS., religious treatises and Ogham inscriptions, it is 
difficult to discover an Irish MS. (those at present translated 
are, it is to be presumed, done into English as being samples) 
that, to the ordinary nineteenth-century render, does not appear 
extremely childish. Irish literature is mere protoplasm. If it 
had a history, its record would show an arrested development. 
Under favourable circumstances it might have become vertebrate, 
or at any rate more life-like, but various causes appear to have 
worked in unison in opposition to its growth ; and in regard to 
Irish poetry, it is related to literature, properly so called, as a 
nebula is to a star. The most that can be said in its praise is 
that it is a rudimentary effort towards a maturity never attained. 
Far the most valuable part of Irish literature is that portion that 
throws light upon the earlier history of the country, and to 
extract the true from the false is a complicated and difficult 
task ; but the race of Irish scholars, who alone can deal with 
these questions, is not likely to become extinct, even should the 
language cease to be spoken. 

With respect to this study of early Irish history, as extracted 


from the annalists and biographers, what is most required is, an 
increased application of the critical spirit. Dr. J. K. Ingfam 
remarks that :— " We have often in the past too readily assumed 
the truth of any statement found (as the phrase is) in one of our 
old books "without examining the trustworthiness and the- sources 
of knowledge of each authority. To take an example, in O'Curry 's 
Manners ami Customs of the Ancient Irish, there is abundant learn- 
ing, a wealth of quotation from the Chronicles, but in criticism 
it falls, I think, far short of the works of the recent Scottish 
historians. Criticism, I am aware, is not popular." Yet old 
books, sacred books, even the Bible itself, have had to submit to 
the searching analysis of modern criticism, with the result that, 
with regard to the latter, advanced and liberal-minded German 
theologians have, in the New Testament, resigned belief in 
miracles ; whilst in the Old Testament, they have given up the 
authenticity and authority of most of the Pentateuch. With 
the yielding of all this, there is little for modern criticism to 
attack. Even the more " orthodox " English school do not hold 
that the destruction of the swine was " a miracle," look on 
Genesis as a composite work, and do not treat the earlier part 
as strict history. 

When their characters are subjected to analysis, the heroes 
and heroines of . the earliest Irish traditions are certainly not 
Christian, whilst in the prevalent narratives, the varnish of 
Christianity is but thinly applied. Most of the tales, at least 
those that have been at present translated, are but clumsily 
patched together, so that the junction of the Pagan and Christian 
portions is quite apparent. Take, for example, the legend of the 
formation of the present Lough Neagh. The scene is laid in the 
first century of the Christian era : consequently before the intro- 
duction of Christianity into Ireland. In the King's palace, which 
stood in the centre of the plain now occupied by the lake, was an 
enchanted well (its origin was, to say the least, very peculiar) ; 
when not in use it was kept covered, as, owing to its magical 
properties, it would otherwise burst forth in a raging flood. 
Through neglect of the "person in charge," it was left one 
morning uncovered; it overflowed, and all the members of the 
King's household, with the exception of three, were drowned, 
and the present sheet of water was formed. One of the 
persons thus preserved was a woman styled Liban, who, together 
with her lap-dog, was, by magic, permitted to live in safety 
beneath the waters. Liban soon became tired of her inactive 
life, and beholding with envy the lively tenants of the lake dart- 
ing about and around her, expressed the wish of being changed 
into a salmon. Instantly, with the exception of her head, she 
was thus transformed, whilst her lap-dog became an otter, and 


in this manner she continued to roam for the space of three 
hundred years, until — and here the Christianising of the old 
story visibly appears — she is caught in the net of an Irish saint, is 
brought ashore, resumes her human form, sings her story in 
melancholy verse, receives the rites of the Church, dies immedi- 
ately, and is buried in all the odour of sanctity. 

A result similar to the overflowing of Lough Neagh, from 
neglecting or disobeying the forms prescribed when procuring 
a supernatural supply of water, occurs when what may be termed 
the "rush enchantment" is practised. It is as follows: — In 
certain localities (needless to say, on low-lying ground) there 
grow magical tufts of rushes. If the postulant finds one of 
these tufts, and pulls up a rush, a most refreshing supply of 
water will exude from the cavity thus occasioned in the soil. 
He may now allay his thirst, but the rush must be replanted 
when he has finished, or otherwise subterranean waters will pour 
with ungovernable fury from the orifice whence the water has 
been drawn, and overwhelm, not only the delinquent, but also the 
entire neigbourhood. This incident occurs in numerous Irish 
tales, the scenes of which are laid in various parts of the king- 

There appears to be very little originality in Irish myths. 
Some legends of the saints were moulded on the Old Testament 
model. For instance, St. Fallen, pursued by Pagan enemies, 
arrived at the edge of a lake which barred bis further progress. 
He struck the water with his crozier, when it divided, ottering 
him a means of escape. On arriving at the further side of the 
lake, he turned and struck the dried ground, when it instantly 
became covered with water as before, drowning his pursuers who 
were half way across. 

Robert Atkinson, LL.D., remarks that there are not wanting 
hints that the early clerics pruned, with no sparing hand, the 
tales that formed the amusement of the people, and which must 
have been handed down from ancient times. Nothing can be 
more significant than the circumstances of the early history of 
the once famous tale of the Tain Bo Cualnge. " About the 
year 600, the poet Senchan assembled the poets of Ireland to 
ascertain if any of these remembered the whole of the story, but 
received as answer that they only knew fragments of it. He 
then asked his pupils which of them would take his blessing and 
go into the country of Letha, to learn the Tain, which a certain 
S,Kti had taken to the east after the (book called) ( 'iiilmeini had 
been carried away. Now Letha was the ancient name for that 
part of Italy in which Rome is situated ; so that there can be- 
little doubt what had become of the tale. But a yet more 
si'mificant element is introduced ; for according to one account. 


the story was recovered by the intervention of St. Ciaran and the 
Saints of Ireland, who fasted and prayed at the grave of the 
famous legendary chief Fergus mac Eoig, in order that God 
might send them that chieftain to relate to them the history 
of the Tain. The relation of the poets to the clergy is here 
set forth in hardly mistakable terms ; the latter were willing that 
the poets should again resume their functions as narrators of the 
old stories, after these had been sufficiently purged of offence by 
their journey to Kome, and the long forgetfulness that had so 
overtaken them." 

The Christianising of Pagan legend is almost everywhere 
apparent. For instance, on the alleged landing of the Milesians 
only some 1300 years B.C., they were met by Bamba, one of the 
numerous queens of Ireland, accompanied by her female attend- 
ants and by Druids. She appears to have been "interviewed" 
by an invader, who questioned her regarding her family and 
relations, somewhat in the style of a modern newspaper reporter 
seeking for " copy." " I am come," said she, in reply to his 
inquiry, " of the sons of Adam." " Which, of the sons of Noah 
are you descended from ? " inquired the invader, who although 
a Gentile, must have been well acquainted with Jewish genea- 
logies. " I am older than Noah," replied Bamba, " and I have 
resided on this mountain since the Deluge." The idea of 
Rider Haggard's Queen She was thus .forestalled by the monastic 

St. Patrick is dragged into the legend of Cuchullin (Coolin), 
Ossian into that of St. Patrick. The latter tale is a good 
specimen of a connecting link between Pagan and Christian 
thought. It is recounted that Ossian survived the famous 
battle of Gabhra,* in which all his comrades perished, and was 
conveyed to the Elysium of the Pagan Irish, whence, after a long 
lapse of years, and many urgent entreaties to the then ruling 
powers, he was permitted to visit once again the scenes of his 
youth and manhood. lie was given a magnificent white steed 
on which to return, but was warned that if he allowed his 
own feet to touch the earth, he would never re-enter Tirnanoge. 
On arrival in Erin, Ossian found that Finn MacCool and his 
warriors were but dimly remembered ; his fortress was a mere 
mound overgrown with weeds and bushwood ; moss and lichens 

* Moore, in his History of Ireland, remarks with great candour that — "The 
fame of this fatal battle of Gahhra, and the bravo warriors who fell in it, 
continued long to be a favourite tlierae of the Irish bards and romancers, and 
upon no other foundation than the old songs respeeting the heroes of this 
combat, mixed up with others relating to chieftains of a still more ancient date, 
has been raised that splendid fabric of imposture, which under the assumed 
name of Ossian, has, for so long a period, dazzled and deceived the world." 


covered the huge casting stones of the Fern ; prayers ami hymns 
were sung where, in his days, bards recited the prowess of 
warriors, and the sickle was in men's hands instead of spear and 

As with sorrowful heart he rode up his native valley, a 
crowd of men striving to raise a huge stone, asked his assistance. 
Stooping from the horse he, unaided, heaved the mass into 
position, but the exertion caused him to overbalance himself, the 
magic steed rlew neighing away, and the last of the race of 
heroes lay on the hillside, a white-haired blind old man, weighed 
down by the infirmities of upwards of two centuries. 

Shortly after this as he was reciting a poem, in which he 
extolled the greatness and strength of his contemporaries and 
forefathers, the profuse feasts of their hunting days, when they 
cut up their quarry and baked it with heated stones in the 
huge cooking places on the wild moors or mountain sides, and 
■ described _ the tall gigantic deer hunted by them, his listeners 
laughed incredulously. The old man rose in anger, and going 
to a neighbouring heap, where were piled the reiics of bygone 
hunts, he selected therefrom a Shank-bone, and returning to the 
banquet took from the table one of the shank-bones of the deer 
on which the guests were then feasting and dropped it through 
the hollow of the deer bone he had brought in. This happened 
at the period of St. Patrick's arrival in Ireland, and meeting 
Ossian in his missionary tour, the saint, actuated bv feelings of 
compassion, took him under his protection. St. Patrick made 
many attempts to convert him to Christianity, the conferences 
generally ending with Ossian's lament for his lost comrades. 
The saint, pitying the misery of the brave old man, would 
introduce some remark on past events which drew from the 
bard a narrative of a battle, a hunt, or some enchantment 
worked on the Feni by magicians, which as usual terminated in 
a fresh lament over his desolate state and the half forgotten 
deeds of his companions. 

The old warrior did not also relish the fasting fare, the 
rigorous austerity of the saint and of his household ; he was 
angry at being aroused at night by the clanging of the bells and 
at daylight by the chanting of matins, preferring the melody of 
the birds and the music of the hounds to these innovations. 

Men, animals, plants and fruit were of larger proportions in 
the days when Ossian was in his prime, than were the 
degenerated specimens which existed on his return to Erin. A 
free translation of the Irish proverbial saying on this subject, 
formerly often quoted by the country people, is as follows:-- 

•' Smaller each scucucding race and more to falsehood prone, 
And wetic eaeli season, while later its fruits are ^rown." 


It is therefore not surprising that the meal of an ordinary 
man should appear a mere trifle to the old warrior-bard, and 
St. Patrick's kitchen resounded daily with the angry quarrels 
of Ossian and the saint's housekeeper, who being of a niggardly 
disposition, doled out for each meal no more than whetted the 
appetite of the blind man. One day the fight terminated by the 
scolding housekeeper declaring that what she had given ought 
to be more than enough even for Ossian's enormous appetite. 
Her voice was drowned in the wrathful roar of the enraged 
old warrior, as he vociferated : "I often saw a berry of the 
mountain ash as large as your miserable pat (misyaun) of butter ; 
an ivy leaf as large as your barley cake ; and a quarter of a 
black-bird as large as your quarter of mutton." 

The retort of the virulently tongued housekeeper " you lie," 
sank deeply into Ossian's proud heart, but though he bore her 
affront in recollection, and had planned the vindication of his 
veracity, he henceforth, to the astonishment of the shrew, 
received his meals without a murmur, for adherence to truth 
was one of the most pleasing characteristics of the Feni. In 
another part of the legend, Ossian is represented as again very 
indignant with St. Patrick, for implying that he had coloured his 
narratives of other days with fiction. The old warrior-bard 
exclaims : — 

' ' We, the Fians, would tell no lie, 
falsehood's cup is sour ; 
Truth and strength e'er brought us safe, 
In peril's darkest hour." 

The Feni are in Ireland " what the race who fought at Thebes 
and Troy were in Greece ; Sigurd and his companions in 
Scandinavia; Dietrich and his warriors in Germany ; Arthur 
and his Knights in Britain ; and Charlemagne and the Paladins 
in France ; that is, mythic heroes, conceived to have far 
exceeded in strength and prowess the puny beings who now 
occupy their place." 

Ossian possessed a favourite bitch with young at the time, 
and the blind bard instructed the intelligent boy selected by 
St. Patrick to be his guide and attendant — who was devotedly 
attached to his charge, and always listened with ecstasy to the 
tales of the prowess of the warriors of other days — to acquaint 
him as soon as the puppies were born. When informed, that 
there were ten, he told the boy to procure a freshly-skinned 
horse hide, nail it with the fleshy side out to a board on the side 
of the house, and then, facing the puppies towards it, throw 
them against the hide, one by one, and inform him of the result. 
A laugh from the lad attracted Ossian's attention, who inquired 

'Jllli CHRJS1IAX1SJXG <)/< 1 J AGAX L/iGEXD. 143 

the cause. The boy explained that the puppies had all fallen to 
the ground, except one, who clung tenaciously to the hide. 
Ossian told him to rear that one, and drown the other nine. 
One summer morning Ossian announced to the boy his inten- 
tion of going a journey, bringing with him the dog, which he 
had in the meantime carefully reared and trained. Arriving at 
the foot of Slievenamon, they turned eastward into the long 
winding valley of Glanasmole, and Ossian asked the lad whether 
he observed anything remarkable. The boy replied that he only 
saw a large tree bearing fruit, which, but for its enormous size, 
he thought might be berries of the quickbeam or mountain ash ; 
Ossian told him to pluck one of the berries. Turning towards 
the rocky side of the glen, the boy's attention was attracted by 
ivy growing on the cliff, the leaves of which were so large that 
their shadow overspread and darkened the glen ; one of these 
immense leaves was also gathered. They retraced their steps 
towards the mountain which they ascended, and proceeding to the 
rude stone monument which crowns its summit, Ossian told his 
young guide to lift the covering slab of the tomb. The boy 
essayed the task, but soon convinced of its impracticability 
declared that nothing less than the strength of a giant could 
raise so ponderous a stone. The old blind warrior lifting it with 
ease, exposed to view in the cavity beneath three instruments of 
war and of the chase, which had been in use in the days of his 
youth ; a great trumpet, a bronze ball employed as a missile, 
and a keen edged sword. These, by his direction, his guide took 
out and proceeded to clean. Ossian then told the lad to blow the 
trumpet, and asked whether anything strange was to be seen. 
The boy answered in the negative. Ossian ordered him to blow 
again and again, as loud as lie could, but nothing was observed. 
Ossian then seized the trumpet, and placing it to his lips blew a 
blast, the reverberations of which were heard far and wide ; he 
blew a blast still louder, and again a third even more loud and 
far-echoing. Soon a dense cloud overspread the horizon, and 
the sky was darkened by nights of birds which alighted in the 
valley. They came in three distinct flocks, the size of the birds 
increasing in each succeeding flight, the last consisting of 
enormous birds of the blackest plumage. Ossian then ordered 
the lad to unslip the dog, and send him down into the valley 
amongst the birds, where he was soon fiercely engaged in 
slaughtering them. At length, they were all killed except one 
jet black bird, larger than all the rest, which sat perched on a 
rock overhanging the valley. Ossian informed the youth that 
this bird was the object of their search, and the hound was soon 
engaged in a furious contest with it ; after a long and fearful 
stni^'le, the dog killed it and drank its blood. But the bird 


before it died had infused a quantity of virus into the dog which 
rendered him suddenly mad, and he rushed back towards his 
master, with wide-opened mouth, exposing its bloody fangs, as it" 
he would devour him. The boy in hurried accents described the 
situation. " Courage," exclaimed Ossian, " the dog has tasted 
blood for the first time, cast the bronze ball into his gaping 
mouth ; be firm, for if you miss, he will destroy us." The 
youth lost courage and trembled, but Ossian snatched the imple- 
ment from his shaking hand and said, " direct my hand." 
Ossian, under this supervision, hurled the ball into the hound's 
gaping jaws, so that he was at once choked. 

After surveying with wonder the vale filled with the slaughtered 
birds, the lad was directed by Ossian to cut off one of the quarters 
of the enormous black bird with the sword, and they returned, in 
triumph, carrying with them also the mountain-ash berry and 
the ivy-leaf. Laying the three trophies on the kitchen table, 
Ossian called for St. Patrick and his housekeeper, narrated the 
whole affair, concluding with emphasis, " now do I lie ? " and 
forthwith proceeded to cuff the woman. The national saint 
interposed, soothed the acerbity of the old warrior's temper, 
expressed astonishment at his adventures, which afforded such 
unequivocal evidence of the strictness of his veracity, and gave 
orders that he was never, on any pretence, to be stinted in his 

In their more ancient MS. form these old tales and poems, 
so called, are so bald and disjointed, that the style, parodied in 
the inimitable scene between the irate Highlander, Hector 
M'Intire, and Oldbuck, the Antiquary, is not in the least over- 
drawn. A very much toned down, and very free translation of 
the commencement of the poem, which opens with a dialogue 
between Ossian and St. Patrick, ridiculed by Sir Walter Scott 
in his novel of The Antiquary, is as follows : — 

< IssIAN. 

"I care not for thee, senseless clerk, 
Nor all thy psalining throng ; 
Whose stupid souls, unwisely dark, 
Keject the light of song. 

" Unheeding while it pours the strain 
With Fenian glory swell'd ; 
Sueh as thy thought can scarce contain, 
Thine eye has ne'er beheld. " 


" Son of Finn, the Fenii's lame, 
Thou gloriest to prolong ; 
While I my heav'nly King proclaim 
In psalm's diviner song." 



" Dost thou insult me to my face? 
Does thy presumption dare 
With the bright glories of my race, 
Thy wretched psalms compare?" 

In another of these unedii'ying discussions between the 
Holy man and the Poet, St. Patrick, to try and demonstrate 
the all-prevailing power of the Almighty, declared that a fly 
could not buzz in Heaven without God's knowledge. The old 
heathen, whom he was trying to convert, made a good point, 
when he retorted that at Finn's Camp, a thousand men might 
enter, eat, drink, and depart, without the Chief's knowledge. 

In popular, as well as in written tales, St. Patrick is also 
dragged into the legend of Cuchullin [Coolin] . Sometimes, 
though in rare instances, Druids appear on the scene, but 
how art: they depicted ? Not as dignified priests, the guardians 
of then existing religion and science, but such as they are 
afterwards described by their opponents, the Christian mission- 
aries, as mere jugglers. It seems to be now admitted that the 
Iron Age did not really commence in Ireland much before the 
introduction of Christianity, and yet these heroes of romance are 
represented as hewing at each other with swords of iron like the 
Vikings of later date. 

Another way, in which the more ancient texts have been 
tampered with, has been pointed out by the late J. O'Beirne 
Crow : — " There is nothing more painful to the Irish student, 
than to see the way in which our transcribers of the fifteenth, 
sixteenth, and seventeenth century have corrupted our ancient 
tracts. When they met a difficult form or phrase their invari- 
able habit was to put it into another form somewhat resembling 
the original in sound, or to substitute what they thought a 
synonym, or to omit it altogether." The same Irish scholar 
was even of opinion that the idea of a military force, or Militia, 
having existed in ancient Erin, arose from a verbal change in 
the text, simply because the title, " Royal Champion of Erin," 
like " Royal poet of Erin," was, in later transcriptions of the 
older text, turned into " King of the Keni of Erin," and he adds, 
"that such a body, however, has never had a being in Erin, I 
hope to be able to show." 

The original and tense expressions of early Irish prose 
were no longer appreciated by the more modern school of writers. 
An elaborate description of the most trifling incidents, a piling 
together of superfluous adjectives, a constant repetition of stand- 
ing phrases became the fashion, in addition to which the 
copyist was often tempted by his own ideas as to the correctness 



of style, to venture on an even further expansion of the already 
unnecessarily loaded text. 

The real value of the tales and romances is best judged by the 
archaeologist, for the writers usually depicted the state of 
things as they existed in their own time, and not in the 
remoter period which they are supposed to describe. Such 
compositions shed tolerably true side-lights on ancient manners 
and customs, but to do this, the date of their last redaction must 
be approximately settled. When this has been done, it will be 
found that, although ancient, they are, for the true elucidation of 
pre-Christian times, of comparatively little importance. 

However poor the survivals as a whole, may appear to us, 
. we must nevertheless assume that what has been preserved 
belongs to the best productions of these early ages, that they 
were works on which the literary critics of the period, as well as 
subsequent generations, placed a high value. Taken as a whole, 
this class of literature may be compared to a stream, the. character 
of which varies in all the different stages of its progress, clear 
at the source, foul at the mouth ; to ascertain its real value, we 
must trace it back, through all its channels and feeders, to its 

That a great number of Irish MSS. must have perished at 
an early period is evident from the frequent destruction by 
fire of the most celebrated monasteries. The very titles of the 
books so lost are often enumerated. In later times, in the 
dedication of his translation of the Annals of Clonmacnoise, 
Connell Mageoghegan describes the destruction of MSS. as then 
going on, and states that tailors were in the habit of cutting up, 
with their scissors, the leaves of books once held in great repute, 
and that they sliced them into long strips for measures. 

Myths, and tales invented to teach a moral, remain at the 
base of all thought and of all creeds, for legends endowed 
with apparent ever-enduring vitality, shadowy traditions of old- 
world life, echoes which vibrate in the folk-lore of every people, 
are embedded in scattered fragments in present-day faiths. 

In former times the peasantry, imbued with many apparently 
Eastern ideas, were confirmed fatalists ; what the gods or saints 
decreed could not, or should not, be altered. It was, to use an 
Eastern expression, " kismat," and ought not to be averted. 
Thus rain is sent down by permission of God, or of the 
saints, in proportion to the deserts of men ; therefore, it is 
sinful in the extreme to irrigate fields or water gardens, for 
if the powers above wished them to flourish they would send 
rain to moisten them. In illustration of this', a traditional story, 
which passed as gospel among the sages of national lore, is found 
with slight variations, in many districts of Ireland. 


A rich master baker, possessed of new-fangled ideas about 
insuring the growth of vegetables, contrary to the will of heaven, 
was engaged, on a hot summer's day, in watering them, when 
he was accosted by a stranger, who inquired what he was 
doing. The baker answered that he was watering plants 
suffering from long drought. The stranger replied that he 
should have left that work to God, who knew the time for water- 
ing better than man, and that if God had wished them to flourish 
He would have poured down rain upon them. The stranger then 
.suddenly vanished. The baker, who noticed something super- 
human in his visitor, felt the force of his observations, abandoned 
the watering, and, full of anxiety, returned to where he had left 
«i batch of bread baking under the charge of his men whom he 
found fast asleep. Opening the strongly-heated oven, he saw all 
the loaves shot out into luxuriant ears of green wheat. From 
this the baker inferred that the stranger was a heavenly messenger 
sent to reprove him for his impious act in producing artificial 
rain. This story was quoted by the peasantry as proof that 
man has no right to attempt to supply, by labour or any artificial 
means, what God, in His bounty, is wont to send in His good 
time. O'Donovan was of opinion that the story was not invented 
by any knave for the purpose of encouraging idleness, but that it 
originated in the idiosyncrasy of the people. 

There is considerable similarity between folk-lore current in 
the East and that still existing amongst a large portion of the 
population of Ireland, more especially in remote localities. The 
Celtic mind is essentially Eastern in character, and legends still 
current illustrate this. A few present a beautiful fancy ; for 
instance, we have the ancient Irish romance of " the Children of 
Lir " metamorphosed into swans ; and anyone acquainted with 
many of the large lakes of Ireland, more especially Lough Erne, 
cannot have failed to note the swans which at almost every 
season of the year are seen upon the bays and inlets. They 
<'ome and go scathless, for, in the minds of the Celtic peasantry, 
they represent the souls of holy women, victims of the fire and 
.sword of the Northmen who swept over Lough Erne again and 
again. This is a good example of a pagan legend being Christian- 
ised, not in oral tradition alone, but also in manuscript form, 
for the Irish delight to give a local colour and habitation to 
mythic and traditional characters as well as to incidents that 
take hold of the fancy, whether with regard to the exploits of 
the comparatively modern but ubiquitous Northmen, or to the 
actions of the far older mythological Druid-gods of theDedanann. 
"The Children of Lir " are, as a matter of course, freed from 
their enchantment by the intervention of a Christian bishop, are 
converted from paganism to Christianity, and, on their departure 



to realms above, sing their death-song, thus paraphrased by 
P. W. Joyce in Celtic Romances : — 

" Come, holy priest, with book and prayer ; 
Baptise and shrive us here : 
Haste, cleric, haste, for the hour has come, 
And death at last is near. 

" Dig our grave — a deep deep grave, 
Near the church we loved so well ; 
The little church where first we heard 
The voice of the Christian hell." 

In the armorial bearings of the Borough of Sligo, a hare is 
depicted as being held fast by an oyster. According to local 
tradition the hare trod accidentally on an open oyster, and the 
bivalve resenting this intrusion at once closed on the foot of poor 
puss. A Cork boatman recounted a similar anecdote of a rat 
going to feed on an oyster, whose shell lay invitingly open, at 
low water ; but the oyster, closing its shell, held him fast until 
he was drowned by the returning tide ; this tale agrees with one 
of La Fontaine's fables. The same incident, but in connexion 
with a fox, was narrated, some centuries ago, to one of the 
earliest western travellers, as being then current in India. Thus, 
a story may be traced from land to land, and from age to age ; 
and this agreement is very interesting, as tending to point out 
the common sources from which our traditions were derived. 

There is great similarity between the Persian story of Eustam 
and the Bardic tale of Conloch. An Irish chief with an un- 
pronounceable name, 

" A terrible man, with a terrible name, 

A name which you all know by sight very well, 
But which no one can spenk and no one can spell," 

and King Midas were both afflicted with animals' ears. The 
resemblance of the Irish to the classic story is too close to admit 
of being accidental. The Irish chief, desirous of concealing his 
deformity, caused every barber who dressed his hair to be put to 
death. It happened that once the lot fell on a young man, the 
only son of a poor widow, and the importunities* of the mother 
prevailed on the king to spare his life, on condition that he kept 
the Boyal secret. The necessity of secrecy so preyed upon the 
youth's mind that he sickened, and an eminent Druid told him 
that if he did not divulge the secret, he would never recover his 
health. The youth, thinking he could effect this without anyone 
being the wiser, dug a hole into the ground, into which he 
whispered the awful secret. The King's harper having broken 


his instrument, went in search of wood to mend it, and selected 
a willow which grew close to where the hairdresser had imparted 
liis secret to mother earth. The harp was repaired, but when 
strung could sound but one refrain, " The King has two horse's 

A King of Macedon and a King of Erin effected the destruc- 
tion of their enemies by apparelling a number of young men to 
represent women. 

According to the Bardic tale, Turgesius, the great Norwegian 
conqueror of Ireland, had established himself on Lough Ree 
where he commanded the water-ways of Ireland. Here he fell 
in love with the beautiful daughter of Melaghlin, King of 
Westmeath, and demanded her from her father. Fearing to re- 
fuse, Melaghlin pretended to consent, but sent in his daughter's 
stead twelve beardless youths, dressed up as maidens, to personate 
his daughter and her attendants. After Tergesius and his 
boon companions had laid aside their arms and armour and 
had drank to excess, they were assassinated by the disguised 
young warriors. 

The Greek Thersites and Conan the Irish warrior were both 
bald, were great boasters, and great cowards. The following is 
the Homeric description of the scene between Ulysses and 
Thersites : — 

'* IVaeo, factious monster, born to vex the state, 
With wrangling talents form'd for foul debate ; 
Curb that impetuous tongue, nor rashly vain, 
And singly mad, asperse the sovereign reign. 
Have we not known thee, slave of all our host, 
The man that aets the least, upbraids the most." 

Compare the above with the poem of " The Chase," where 
Oscar thus addresses Conan : — 

" Cease thy vain babbling, senseless fool, 
Bald boaster, stain to arms, 
Still forward to promote misrule, 
But shrinks at war's alarms. 

" My son high raised his threatening blade, 
To give his fury sway, 
But the pale Conan shrunk dismayed, 
And sprang with fear away." 

According to P. W. Joyce, Conan is " the best-marked and 
best-sustained character of the Ossianic romances ; large-bodied, 
a great boaster, a great coward and a great glutton. He had a 
venomous tongue, and hardly ever spoke a good word of anyone, 
lie was the butt for the gibes and mockery of the Feni, but 


they dreaded his foul tongue. The story-tellers never lose an 
opportunity of having a fling at Conan, and of turning him into- 
ridicule, for his cowardice, his big talk, and his gluttony." 

The Formorian giant Balor and Perseus, in some respects, 
resemble each other ; in both stories the precautions taken are 
almost identical, precautions that were defeated by supernatural 
means, and in both instances the decree of destiny is fulfilled by 
the murder of the grandfather, whilst the peculiar property of 
Balor's eye, has its parallel in classic myth. Probably the 
oldest written account of the superstition regarding the Evil Eye 
in Ireland, is that related of Balor. He became possessed of the 
power as a child, when one day, he happened to pass a sacred 
building in which Druids were busy brewing a magic decoction. 
Overcome with curiosity, he peeped in through a crevice to- 
observe what was going on. At that moment the "medicine 
men" lifted the lid of the caldron, and the vapour, which 
escaped, passed into one of Balor's eyes, carrying with it all the 
deadly venom of the brew. Balor thus could strike whole armies 
dead with the terrible power of his gaze. 

After the Pagan giant Balor, one of the few ancient instances 
of the fatal effects of the malific eye is narrated of a St. Silan, 
probably a " 'verted " Pagan who possessed the unenviable 
property of a poisonous hair in his eyebrow that killed whoever 
in the morning first looked on him. The sequel is thus told by 
Lady Wilde. " All persons, therefore, who, from long sickness, 
or sorrow, or the weariness that comes with years, were tired 
of life, used to try and come in the saint's way, that so their 
sufferings might be ended by a quick and easy death. But 
another saint, the holy Molaise, hearing that St. Silan was 
coming to visit his church, resolved that no more deaths should 
happen by means of the poisoned hair. So he arose early in the 
morning, before anyone was up, and went forth alone to meet 
St. Silan, and when he saw him coming along the path, he 
went boldly up, and plucked out the fatal hair from his eyebrow, 
but in doing so, he himself was struck by the venom, and 
immediately fell down dead.'' 

The infant Hercules when yet in his cradle strnngles a 
serpent ; the great Irish hero Cuchullin (Coolin) when a child 
strangles a huge watch-dog, the terror of the country side. The 
Greek Adonis and the brave and gay Dermod, are each killed by 
a boar. This last-mentioned legend was certainly the most 
popular and wide-spread tale current amongst the Irish-speaking 
population, and it is, of all the legends which have descended to 
our days, the one which has been least Christianised. The 
tale as recounted in the count}' Sligo, is given in chapter 


In the oldest bardic legends which have descended to our 
time, there are, here and there, glimpses of past phases of 
thought and character calculated to arrest attention. This 
literature comprises a number of prose tales of warlike adventures. 
Amongst them there is a class known by the designation of 
"Caves"; these are stories respecting various occurrences in 
souterrains or underground dwellings, such as the capture of a 
" cave " used as a place of refuge or habitation, or the narrative 
of some adventure in, or plunder of one of these artificial 
underground dwellings. There is the tale of the hiding of 
Dermod and Grania in a cave on the Hill of Howth ; the tale of 
the Cave of Croghan ; and the adventure of a chief named 
Cuglass who disappeared in the cave at Baltinglass since called 
after him. A list of these wild legends is given by O'Curry in 
his M.S'. Materials of Ancient Irisli Hixtnry, There are also 
accounts of maritime voyages and adventures, tragic occurrences, 
visions and dreams ; of these some have been translated in a 
most literal manner, whilst others have been paraphrased, so 
that an English reader can form an approximate idea of their 
merit. But, as a rule, the translations we at present possess are 
about the dreariest reading that can well be chosen ; as one 
turns page after page of slavishly literal rendering, absurdities 
and inanities jostle one another, so that we ought to feel a deep 
debt of gratitude to the few translators who have attempted the 
task of producing some kind of more polished version. The best 
essay, as yet, is probably Dr. Joyce's Celtic Romance* in which 
the original expressions are paraphrased, and no strictly literal 
rendering is placed before the reader. The paraphrase enables 
the modern reader to trace the ancient ideas and train of thought, 
better than he could with a more literal translation before him. 
" Even seven hundred and fifty years ago," writes the Rev. 
E. Hogan, s.j., in his translation of Cath Iiuis na B'uj for limnu, 
" such things were looked on as ' l'histoire veritable des temps 
fabuleux,' as the scribe of the Tain B6 Cuailnge in the ISnak of 
Leinster writes at fol. 104 b : ' A blessing on everyone who shall 
faithfully memorize the Tain in this form and shall not put it 
into any other form. But I, who have transcribed this history, 
or rather fable, do not believe some things in this history or 
fable. For some things in it are delusions of demons, some are 
poetic figments, some seem true (similia), and some not ; some 
are written to amuse fools.' " 

As to the merit of these stories, the most opposite opinions 
havo been expressed. " Some have represented them as devoid 
of all value or interest," remarks Dr. J. K. Ingram," others have 
spoken of them as a literature of the first order, and have almost 
implied that the Irish intellect of the present day would find its 


best possible culture in their study. The truth, as usual, lies 
between these extreme views. We possess, in Irish, no work of 
genius comparable to the Nibelungen Lied, or the Song of Eoland. 
To speak of the Tain-Bo-Cuailnge as a Gaelic Iliad seems, to say 
the least, an imprudent comparison. But without any great 
continuous composition there are in the remains which have 
come down to us, passages of much beauty and tenderness ; 
some of the tales are impressively and touchingly told, and there 
is one singular relic ' the Vision of MaeConglinne ' which is 
instinct with genuine humour of the Babelaisian type," but this 
tract is apparently of comparatively late date. 

There is also the humorous story of "The pursuit of the 
Gilla Dacker and his Horse," a narration of a practical joke 
played by an enchanter on sixteen of the most renowned of 
the Feni, whom he carried off on the back of an enormous 
horse, to " the Land of Promise." The story, in modern 
version, is shortly as follows : Finn MacCool was one day in 
camp at Knockainy in Limerick, most of his companions being 
away hunting, when a look-out apprised him of the advent of 
a huge unwieldy man, leading or rather dragging an immense 
skeleton-like horse after him. On emerging from his tent 
Finn beheld this extraordinary being approaching in a most 
lazy fashion, each step achieved as if by a painful effort. Finn 
demanded his name, his birthplace, and what he wanted. 
" Gilla Dacker (Slothful Fellow) is the name I am called. 
The spot I come from is not worthy of a place in your memory. 
No one will employ me, I am so lazy, and so I seek service with 
the hospitable chief of the Feni of Erin." Finn laughed, and 
told him that he might stay with his grooms. The giant 
thanked him, saying, " May the King of the North live in fear 
of you. Go my poor horse, and graze with the noble beasts on 
the meadow, the great Finn gives you permission." Finn had, 
however, scarcely entered his tent, when he heard such a squeal- 
ing and galloping from the pasture that he rushed out and beheld 
the bony steed of the lazy fellow, biting and kicking the other 
horses, and scattering them in all directions. " Dog of a slug- 
gard," shouted the irate Finn, " run to the pasture, "secure your 
cursed beast, and let me not set eyes on either of you again." 
"Chief of the warriors of Erin," replied the Sluggard, "the 
slowest of your men would be in Dublin before your servant 
could reach the meadow. But let Conau catch him by the mane 
and I will be warrant for his quietness." Conan seized the 
brute's mane, and the weird steed at once stood still as if changed 
into stone ; in vain did stick and leathern thong resound on his 
ribs; lie remained with set feet as if planted in the ground. At 
the suggestion of its owner Conan then jumped on its back and 


plied stick and thong afresh, but without avail. " Ah, where is 
my memory fled," said the Slothful One, "he will not move 
without feeling the weight of sixteen men such as Conan." 
Fifteen of Conan's companions clambered, one by one, on to the 
back of the ill-conditioned steed, who thereupon, at a touch of 
his master's magical rod, galloped away followed by his owner, 
but at such a pace as made pursuit vain. The men tried to 
throw themselves off, but failed, as they found that they were 
firmly fastened to the back of the magical horse. 

For the adventures of Finn and of his companions in the 
pursuit and recovery of their captive comrades there is not space. 

For the most part these tales bear internal evidence of their 
origin and composition belonging to no very remote period, and 
they have, in many instances, been interpolated or amended by 
modern transcribers. Whilst illustrating a very rude state of 
society, they often present interesting evidences of inventive 
power, and many of these humorous and lengthened composi- 
tions were recited from memory, and thus transmitted through 
many successive generations in the mountainous districts of 
Minister, in the plains of Leinster, in the glens of Ulster, or 
throughout the wilds of Connaught. 

According to modern criticism, these stories naturally divide 
themselves into two epochs, one comparatively ancient, the 
other modern. The older series is that of which Cuchullin is the 
centre, and is supposed, by some, to have first been reduced to 
writing in the ninth century, when monastic chroniclers converted 
mythical tradition into pseudo-history, and the after-descent of 
these stories belongs to written literature rather than to oral 
tradition. In fact, as already stated, each fresh transcriber 
adapted them to the times in which he wrote. 

The reader who is not acquainted with Irish may be warned 
parenthetically that Cuchullin is pronounced somewhat like 
Coolin, according to the orthographic fancy of Celtic ideas, 
which invariably supplies a superabundance of consonants. We 
should, however, remember that one of the greatest defects in 
the English language is its extraordinary spelling, but neverthe- 
less in this it is completely outdone by the Irish Gaelic, which, 
as pointed out by William Larminie in West Irish Folk Tales, 
" is troubled in an aggravated form with every evil that 
afflicts English. Different sounds are written in the same 
way. Identical sounds are written in different ways. Silent 
letters attain to a tropical forestine luxuriance, through which 
the tongue of the learner despairs of hewing a way. There are, 
moreover, cases in which there is no indication in writing of 
single sounds, and even syllables which are actually pro- 
nounced ; and there is at least one case of a word being written 


as if it began with a vowel while it really begins with a 

Cuchullin combined in his person the bravery of Achilles 
with the beauty of Paris. Tighernach (Teernah) calls him " the 
bravest hero of all the Scots "; and Irish writers delight to 
dwell on his exploits. According to these chroniclers he had, 
however, three faults — he was too young, too bold, and too 
handsome. Eegarded from another standpoint Cuchullin is, to 
a certain extent, a mythical and mythological being, as the 
account of his life given in written records has apparently been 
remodelled on that of Christ. Cuchullin's age at death is thirty- 
three. He has an immortal father and a mortal mother of the 
royal line ; he is born in a district remote from Emania, the 
Irish Jerusalem ; when a child of ten he steals away from his 
mother with his little wooden shield and sword of lath to contend 
with the hero-youths of Emania, as the boy Jesus went into the 
Temple to argue with the Jewish Doctors ; in fact, his deeds, as a 
youth, are a mere adaptation of the recorded early life of Christ 
in the Apocryphal Gospels. He is brought up by Culand the 
artificer, as Christ is brought up by Joseph the carpenter ; he is 
employed defending the weak against aggression ; the last three 
years of his life are full of trouble and misery ; he dies, after 
being pierced by a dart, after taking a drink, exclaiming, " The 
Gods of Erin have deserted us," standing erect with his back to 
a pillar-stone to which he had tied himself : other coincidences 
might be given. 

The legends of the second epoch cluster around Finn 
Mac Cool, who is placed in the third century of the Christian 
era. It would appear as if most writers on the subject have 
accepted the date ; but there is nevertheless a pleasing divergence 
of opinion. Some hold that Finn was really a very ancient 
semi-mythical personage, dragged down, so to speak, by the 
monks to almost Christian times ; while some of the German 
school turn Finn into a ninth-century leader of the Irish against 
the Danes of Dublin, by whom he was slain. 

Even by the most pronounced champions of Irish legendary 
lore, popular stories, still recounted in the vernacular, are 
allowed to be provokingly incomplete. They are, in general, 
incoherent ; more like remembered fragments of ancient stories 
than a complete composition. 

In the written semi-historical tales and legends it is singular 
how comparatively rare are the references to the ancient gods of 
Erin, and although the early Fathers tell us less of heathendom 
than thoy knew, still it is difficult to understand how the clerical 
pruning knife was able, so scientifically, to cut off the principal 
characters from the scene, and leave it even readable ; yet. 

A RT OF EA RL Y MA X. 155 

" however interesting to scholars in their original form," remarks 
Dr. Ingram, " I do not think these tales will ever win their way 
to general esteem among cultivated readers, except as trans- 
muted into shapes better adapted to our ideas, and with a 
certain breadth of modern thought and feelings subtly mingled 
with their substance." 

As a rule, the attempts at art of early man, especially in 
Ireland, were confined to rude linear decorative patterns, an 
exception being the extraordinary and lifelike representation 
of the cavemen of Gaul, who incised on bone delineations of 
men, animals, and fishes. A suspicion may be entertained that 
these articles are possibly modern forgeries. Why should such 
astonishing and faithful animal-designers be confined to one 
relatively small district? Nowhere else have traces of such 
skilled artists been unearthed. If these sketches be authentic, 
we are indebted to them for the oldest pictures in the world. 
What up to the present have been regarded, by us, as " old 
masters," are, indeed, superseded. The study of the nude, of 
" the altogether," is of primeval antiquity, for in these primitive 
studies in nature the human form is depicted perfectly naked, in 
company with the mastodon, a huge-winged reptile resembling 
the pterosaurian, the mylodon, reindeer, cave-bear, fox (or, per- 
haps, but very unlikely, dog), together with reptiles and fishes. 

The remaining period of the Stone Age shows no trace of 
pictorial designs. If further proof were required of the paucity 
of ancient figure drawing, it may be pointed out that in collect- 
ing specimens for exhibition illustrative of the immense period 
covered by the Stone Age, not more than sixty articles could be 
procured showing any germ of pictorial design. This is empha- 
sized by the fact that up to the middle, or even latter end of the 
Bronze Age, ornamentation was still linear in character. 

Perhaps, in the dim future, some Irish cave-explorer may 
bring to light an etching on bone, or stone, similar to those dis- 
covered on the Continent, but until that day arrives we must rest 
content with the singular fact that the sculptor's art, as applied 
to representations of the human or animal form, appears to have 
been rarely, if, indeed, ever, practised in Ireland prior to the 
introduction of Christianity. Even then the devices consisted 
almost entirely in ornamentation of an arabesque character, 
sometimes combined with gi'otesque animals and serpents ; if 
human figures were introduced, they were subsidiary to the 
scroll work in which they were entwined. From the tenacity 
with which the Pagan-Christian school of artists adhered to an 
almost stereotyped form of decoration, it is difficult to assign 
even an approximate date to many of the best specimens of 


elaborately decorated remains. It maybe, however, fairly sur* 
mised that any object of Irish art upon which interlacing tracery 
is displayed should not be referred to a period antecedent to 
Christianity. Strange to say, interlaced serpents are among the 
principal subjects treated in this stage of Irish ornamentation, 
Ireland being itself serpen tless. 

As the writer has elsewhere observed, the style of ornamenta- 
tion of which traces have been left by the Pagan Irish on gold, 
bronze, stone, and earthenware has survived to our day. It is 
thought that it will eventually be proved that this, style is of 
such a nature as will establish the fact that the decoration was 
executed by one race and one school of craftsmen, and that it is 
identical with Continental prehistoric work. It eventuates that 
Irish Pagan art was of an exotic style, which, though developed 
in a more or less characteristic manner, was not an original or 
national style, any more than the interlaced ornamentation, 
which, introduced by the intrusion of Christianity from the 
Continent, was idealised and beautified, so that it is with diffi- 
culty many people can be persuaded that it is but an improvement 
■on classic ideas of decoration. 

Give to a skilful modern sculptor the flint chisel and hammer 
stone of a prehistoric workman, and he would probably declare 
that it was impossible to do anything with such tools, and yet 
with similar implements the primitive workman wrought orna- 
mental and sometimes elaborate designs. 

In no field of investigation are there a greater number of 
enigmas than in the study of the origin of prehistoric designs, 
and to their solution the Irish antiquary has brought every 
literary quality to bear, in addition to a credulity capable of 
believing anything. When he shall have finally discarded 
fanciful theories, and brought to light all that can be discovered 
of the story of the human past, a clearer idea may be obtained 
of the purport of the designs found sculptured in comparative 
profusion on the interior of earns and on the face of natural 
rocks ; they represent the infancy of art, and present many 
attributes which form some of the most interesting traits of 
man's childhood, simplicity being their chief characteristic. 

We may readily expect a high degree of attention to be paid 
by savage man to the manufacture of his weapons, so as to 
render them the best that could be produced. To him they were 
the most valuable thing he possessed, as they not only afforded 
him security, but provided him with food. When superfluous 
labour, in the form of ornamentation, has been bestowed upon 
implements, which did not, in any way, increase their efficiency, 
a new and higher standard, the genesis of art, is reached, for 
ornamentation is not mere utilitarian labour, providing for an 


absolute requirement, but tbe origination of a new standard of 

To the savage, time was of no account. Sir John Evans 
describes how some members of Indian tribes on the Rio Negro 
spend years in perforating cylinders of rock-crystal by twirling a 
flexible leaf-shoot of wild plantain between' the hands, and thus 
grinding out the hole with the aid of sand and water. A 
pendant, formed of a natural quartz prism, clear as glass, 
through the amorphous end of which a hol6 had been pierced for 
suspension, was found by the writer in a primitive interment in 
a rude stone monument near the town of Sligo. Tbe hole in the 
pendant was, on both sides, considerably wider externally than 
in the centre, showing that it had been bored with rude appliances ; 
and as the remains with which the ornament was associated 
apparently belonged to the Neolithic Period, the time taken to 
pierce the quartz must have been immense. 

In estimating the antiquity of an object, or in dealing with 
the style of decoration, the past history of the country in which 
it is found, or with which it is connected, has to be taken into 
account. In Ireland powder-horns may be seen with designs 
which look as if they ought to belong to the eighth or ninth 
century. In Iceland many of the native art-products are in 
appearance of the twelfth century, yet date only from the seven- 
teenth or eighteenth century ; so we should be quite prepared to 
find primitive ornamentation lingering in Ireland long after it 
had been discarded elsewhere. 

Tbe patterns presented in Moko or Maori tattooing — a clever 
combination of scrolls, spirals, line-groupings, and curves — are 
similar to those displayed on walls of early Irish sepnlehral 
chambers, on natural rock surfaces, and on fictile ware. Thus, 
at the Antipodes, we have anthropophagous savages evolving a 
native form of art, resembling Irish pre-Christian effort, which 
has only to be recognised to be fully appreciated. The study of 
Maori art raises the problem by which we are confronted when 
studying early and medieval Irish Christian art— namely, how 
was it that both these peoples, each equally endowed with an 
exquisite taste for linear patterns and designs, could perpetrate 
the ghastly hideosities they produced when they attempted to 
picture the human form. By the designs in the tattooing on a 
Maori chief the initiated could tell his tribe and pedigree; yet 
there is, in a certain sense, no more resemblance between Maori 
ornamentation or Irish rock-scribings and the ancient inscrip- 
tions of Egypt and Assyria, than there is between the unintelli- 
gible scrawl" made by a child and the printed pages of a closely 
reasoned out book, except that in each instance there is a meaning 
intended to be conveyed. 



Fig. 51. 

Head of a Maori Chief, showing 
tattooed patterns. Reproduced 
from Polynesian Researches, by 
William Ellis. 

Each great Maori chief had formerly imprinted on his face 
marks peculiar to his family and to his tribe. Those tattooed on 

the faces of his dependents, although 
simpler and fewer in number, were 
the same in form as those by which 
the chief was distinguished ; in fact, 
tattooing may be regarded as the 
armorial bearings of the ancient 
New Zealand aristocracy. Fig. 54 
is a representation of the head of 
Houghli, a celebrated New Zealand 
warrior, who lived about the year 
1830, and conveys an idea of the 
effect of this singular practice. The 
tattooing on the face of a New Zea- 
lander answered the purpose of the 
particular stripe or colour of the 
Highlander's plaid (some allege that 
the coloured plaid is but a modern 
innovation), and marked the class 
or tribe to which he belonged. It 
was considered highly ornamental, 
as well as useful, as the patterns 
thus permanently marked on the face were a means by which 
they were enabled, to distinguish their friends from then* enemies 
in battle. 

In Ireland many of the irregular scorings on the faces of 
cliffs or on detached boulders should be regarded with archaso- 
logical suspicion. For example, those on the pillar-stone at 
Kilnasaggart, county Armagh, though long held to be Oghamic, 
are now generally considered to have been worn by persons using 
the pillar-stone for the very prosaic purpose of sharpening knives, 
hatchets, or such-like implements. Scorings and scratches which 
appear on another large pillar-stone standing close to the railway 
station of Kesh, county Fermanagh, were caused in like manner, 
as well as very similar markings observable in numerous locali- 
ties. Killowen, county Cork, may be instanced, where they 
occur on a block significantly designated in Irish, " the (sharp- 
ening) Stone of the Weapons." 

There is an " inscribed cromlech," or sepulchral monument, 
in the townland of Scrahanard, on a hillside about three miles 
west of Macroom, county Cork. On the underside of the table- 
stone are a series of artificial marks, which must have been 
incised before the stone was placed in its present position, con- 
sisting of straight and oblique lines, numerous crosses (or, rather, 
lines intersecting at right angles), and other curious forms. But 



they do not appear to have been designed to convey a meaning to 
be arrived at through the medium of phonetic exponents. 

There are incised scorings on the walls of a natural cavern 
known as " the Lettered Cave," on Knockmore Mountain, near 
the village of Derrygonnelly, county Fermanagh (see fig. 55), 
some of which resemble runes ; others seem to he cognate with 
the incised ornamentation on the stones of the great chambers at 
New Grange ; but mixed with the ancient are many modern 
markings, known to be the work of recent visitors to the cave, so 
that much caution is required to distinguish the genuine ancient 
carvings. These latter scribings were, as a whole, pronounced 
to be runes, evidently intended as writing, and could be read even 
now did we but know one or more of the then well-known formula. 
But until this key is discovered we shall be unable to decipher 
them, more especially as later hands have, as already noticed, 
added to the original designs knots and intertwined ornaments of 
very late Irish types, not to mention the very modern scribings. 

Fig. bo. 

" Scribbles, " or "Wild Runes," in the Lettered Cave at Knockmore, 
County Fermanagh. From the Journal of the present Society ot 
Antiquaries of Ireland. 

We can all call to mind Mr. Pickwick's great antiquarian 
discovery, as also the scene between Oldbuck the Antiquary and 
Edie Ot-hiltree the Bluegown, in Scott's novel, V'/ie Anti<[uary, 
in which a dispute arises relative to the Antiquary's discovery of 
a Roman entrenchment and a stone with the letters A.D.L.L. 
This the Antiquary interpreted, Agiucola Decavit Libens Ltjbens, 
and the Bluegown, Aiken Drum's Lang Ladle. 

The English and Scottish stories are, however, quite paral- 
leled by the controversy which arose relative to the discovery and 
meaning of an inscription carved on a slab of rock formerly 
situated on the summit of Tory Hill, near Mullinavat, and which 
Ti"he, in Statistical Obmrratiunx on the < 'i milt if Kilkenny, regards 


as Phoenician, and reads it Beli Dinosb (see fig. 56). The 
archaeologists Vallency and Wood relied on this inscription as the 
sole basis of their theory respecting the Phoenician origin of the 
early colonisation of Ireland. Even Lanigan gravely cites this 
monument as one among many ancient remains in Ireland which 
serve to show that the god Bel was identical with the sun. 


Fig. 56. 
Inscription as given by Tighe in " Statistical Observations on the Co. Kilkenny." 

The true origin of this monument and its inscription is as 
follows : — A millstone cutter went one morning to work at a 
millstone he was fashioning on the top of Tory Hill, but his 
fellow-labourers, without whose assistance he could not com- 
mence operations, did not join him. So, to wile away time, he 
amused himself by cutting his name (E. Conic) and the date 
(1731) on a stone on the summit of the hill (see fig. 57). 

Fig. 57. 
Inscription as originally cut by E. Conic in A.D. 1731. 

He was a very indifferent scholar, and reversed, as children 
constantly do, one of the letters, the last c of his surname. The 
stone was at this time lying flat on the surface of the ground, 
and remained so for many years after his death, until one day. 
when a number of young men repaired to the hill, and to amuse 
themselves competed as to who amongst them could jump the 
furthest. Finding this inscribed stone ready at hand to answer 

Fig. 5S. 
Same Inscription revr 

their purpose, they raised it on others to the height required for a 
" running leap," but placed it in such a position that the letters of 
the inscription appeared reversed (figs. 58. 59). After the contest 

., ' ffifM V*-- ■'••'■3* '- v s 

bo "S2 

1 < 

O 2 

„ a 

2 J 

•' s 

5 3 


they departed to their respective homes, leaving it in this position, 
little imagining that anyone would dream that they had erected 
an altar to a god. Shortly after this, however, some gentlemen 
happened to ascend the hill, and, observing the stone, were struck 
with the strange appearance of the letters. One of them, thinking 
that he had discovered an ancient inscription, made a sketch of 
the stone and the letters in their inverted position, and, having 
exhibited it to some Waterford archaeologists, created a celebrity 
for the locality which induced many to try and decipher the 
wonderful inscription. 

Mistakes like this are laughed at, but attempts at imposition 
cannot be too severely reprobated. Towards the close of last 
century a writer described a remarkable rude stone monument, 
situated on Callan Mountain, in Clare, bearing an Ogham inscrip- 
tion. The translation purported to set forth that the celebrated 
Conan was there buried. To sujjport this reading it is alleged 
that an Irish quatrain was forged and cited as part of an ancient 
poem, to the effect that the above-mentioned warrior had, before 
engaging in battle, prayed to the sun on this spot, that he was 
slain, and there interred under a flagstone, which bore his name 
carved in Ogham characters. 

The rock-markings in the passages and chambers of New 
Grange and Dowth, on the Eiver Boyne, present characteristics 
distinguishing them from the rock-markings of the north of 
England and Scotland, one of the chief of which is, that whilst 
the circular incised figures which form the bulk of the latter are 
concentric, with a central cup-like hollow, and a channel passing 
through the concentric circles, the carvings at New Grange and 
Dowth are, as a rule, spirals, without the central hollow or inter- 
secting channel, and are associated with fern-leaf patterns — 
this fern-leaf pattern is now thought to be doubtful, as there is no 
median line — and also with lozenge, zigzag, and chevron-like 
markings, which are analogous to the ornamentation of Irish 
fictile sepulchral vessels. Many of the markings of New Grange 
and Dowth were evidently carved before the stones were used for 
their present purpose. If we find carvings on a boulder — evi- 
dently placed in position by the hand of nature, and not by the 
hand of man — not in any way connected with Christian use, even 
should these carvings not be strictly analogous to those at New 
Grange and Dowth, still we have grounds to conclude that it is 
an example of an ancient custom which placed to the hand of 
the builders of these tumuli ready carved material. There are 
many such natural boulders, thus decorated by primitive man, 
scattered throughout the country. Several stud the surface of 
the green hills surrounding the Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise. 
Close to one boulder is a cam, called iu Irish, " the Monument of 


the Dead." When a funeral approaches the famed burial ground 
of Clonmacnoise the coffin is laid down and stones thrown on the 
earn. It is stated that no Christian rite was ever performed at 
the boulder. On the contrary, the name by which it is known, 
" The Fairy's Stone," points to its Pagan origin. 

The most singular markings on this rock are representations 
apparently of the ancient Irish ring-brooch; some with a knob 
on top of the acus, as frequently occurs in extant specimens, 
others being flat at top, and seeming to represent the looping of 
the acus over the flat bar of a half-moon ring. The carvings 
appear to have been formed by a rude-pointed tool or pick, and 
are, on an average, about an inch deep. Other boulders occurring 
on the hill are studded over with cup-like hollows, evidently 
caused by the solvent property of rain-water, retained in certain 
natural irregularities, which were thereby deepened, and assumed 
the artificial aspect which they now present. 

There is an incised stone, near Cranna, county (ialway, 
called in Irish by the very peculiar designation, " The Stone of 
the Fruitful Fairy." It is a boulder of very irregular form, 
measuring forty-six inches by thirty-two inches, and presents, 
with other ornamentation, the water-worn hollows already 

About a quarter of a mile from Parsonstown, on the road to 
Dublin, there stood, many years ago, a globular-shaped limestone 
boulder, five or six feet in diameter, and inscribed with V-shaped 
marks, like the stone at Cranna, county Galway, and other 
places ; also various depressions or cavities, traditionally said 
to be tin 1 marks of Finn MaeCool's thumb and fingers. It was 
called in Irish, Finn's Seat. This stone has been removed from 
its ancient site. The giants, as noticed, left marks of their 
person, their lingers, and of their feet on rocks. The saints did 
the same. Two examples will suffice. In the townland of 
Bellanascaddan, in the county Donegal, there is a monolith on 
which are two cup-marks. To account for these the country 
people narrate that a giant, who lived in a neighbouring fort, 
used it as his " finger-stone," and that the cups on the stone are 
the marks of his fingers. Within the demesne of Sheestown, in 
Ossory, there exists a rock marked with peculiar indentations, 
which were believed by the people to have been traces or marks 
of St. Patrick's footsteps. The rock was called in Irish, " St. 
Patrick's Footprints." 

A good example of carvings occurs on an inclined bed of rock 
near the summit of Itveneld Hill, in the townland of Bally- 
dorragh, county Cavan. The markings are described as produced 
apparently by simple scraping with a saw-like motion. The 
figures most commonly represented are detached straight-armed 

M 2 


crosses, but not unfrequently these are so grouped or clustered 
gether as to form a network of lines crossing in every direction ; 
in two instances these crosses are enclosed in an oblong rect- 
angular figure. About a quarter of a mile north-west of 
" Calliagh Dirra's House," in the parish of Monasterboice, 
county Louth, are rock-markings on a natural rock-surface, 
produced by a combined method of scraping and punching. 
Some of the devices differ from those at Eyefield, for many are 
of quite a Eunic character. This may, however, be accidental, 
just as some of the carving on rocks in Sweden closely resembles 
a pair of spectacles ; yet, no one could imagine that they had 
such a significance. 

When forming the new line of road leading from Ballydehob 
to Bantry in the county Cork, the workmen cleared away a con- 
siderable depth of earth from the face of a rock of red sandstone 
of the district, and so exposed its sculptured surface. The 
designs consist of circles, cup-shaped cavities, penannular rings, 
and V-shaped markings ; there are two perfectly-formed circles, 
and three imperfect or penannular circles, together with other 
curious markings. 

What Irish rock scribings represent is a question still 
awaiting solution, though numerous conjectures have been 
hazarded. Cup-markings, incomplete rings, a series of circles 
round a central cup, sometimes with a radial groove through the 
circles ; these are the commonest types. These emblems are 
stated to be almost identical in Hittite, Cypriote, Cuneiform, and 
Egyptian ; thus, to solve the enigma of these scribings we must 
go afield. For instance, what does this style of ornamentation 
represent to present-day primitive peoples, to the aborigines of 
Australia, or to the natives of the islands of the Pacific ? 

It_ should also be pointed out that, in many instances, dot- 
and-circle patterns occur in triplets. Can they have reference 
to three deities, or to a triune God ? No doubt, these conjoined 
figures, when placed on the tomb of the deceased, as found 
occasionally in Ireland, had some symbolical meaning, as has 
the Christian Cross when used as an ornament, or when placed 
over a grave. It may be repugnant to the feelings of many 
people to be informed that their notion that the symbolic use of 
the Cross is of purely Christian origin is a mistaken one. It 
was common, perhaps more common, in Pagan than in present 
times. They may, however, console themselves with the fact 
that its real beginning was further back still in the world's 
history ; that with Paganism it was, as it is with Christianity, 
simply an adopted and favourite symbol, brought in from an even 
lower form of worship. In like manner, many things formerly 
supposed to be of comparatively modern origin, "can nowadays be 


traced back to the remotest prehistoric ages ; hence, as a mere 
matter of induction, it follows that the modern meaning, or 
application given to many things, is often one developed in 
recent times, and not that which was originally intended. The 
original meaning may have been very different to what it sub- 
sequently became, so that the interpretation belonging to the 
epoch in which we are first enabled to trace a definite meaning, 
is not necessarily to be regarded as that which cave birth to the 
symbol, but is, probably, only an intermediate link in the chain 
of symbolic development. 

The religious systems of many heathen nations contained the 
germ, in a more or less developed state, of the idea of three 
equally powerful deities, or of a triune God ; suffice it to 
instance the modern Hindoos and the old Norsemen. The for- 
mulary of one of the oaths of the latter demonstrates this. It was 
as follows : — " So help me Frey, N.jord, and the Almighty As." 
It may be well to state that the assinine-like name is but an alius 
of Odin, the great Northern God. 

All the cup-like excavations met with on rock surfaces, 
pillar stones, cromlechs, and other monuments in Ireland and in 
Great Britain are not by any means the work of man. Many 
are the result of weathering and disintegration of the stone from 
long exposure to atmospheric influences. Cuplike excavations 
may be noticed on the surface of primary sandstone and other 
softer rocks, as well as on the surface of far denser stone. 
Occasionally they are the result of the mineralogical constitution 
of the rock, or of softer portions, weathering out, or of the 
enucleation of fossilized organic remains, or of embedded stone 

Asa proof of the caution requisite before attaching importance 
to such objects, an incident, observed when the discussion 
amongst British archaeologists about cup-markings was at its 
height, deserves to be recorded. An Irish antiquary chanced to 
walk towards the Mumbles, near Ovstermouth, South Wales, 
where quarrying operations were being carried on. The stone 
that was being worked lay in vertical strata, and as each layer 
was removed the face of the next exhibited cupped depressions in 
considerable numbers, irregularly distributed over the surface, 
and the antiquary immediately recognised as a fact that which 
he had previously surmised — namely, that three-fourths of the 
cup-markings that had been occupying the attention of learned 
societies, and filling the pages of their publications had no 
areha'ological significance whatever, and were merely due to 
natural causes. 

Various excavations on stones, especially on the covering stones, 
and on the flagging in cists, in chambered tumuli and on cromlechs, 


are frequently noticed ; but an examination of their smooth sur- 
faces and expanding interiors demonstrates that the excavations 
are unmistakably the work of marine life at a time when the 
stones formed a part of a sea-beach. This refers, of course, not to 
cup-and-ring markings, which are clearly due to man's industry, 
but to mere depressions resembling cups, or segments of eggs, 
which are sometimes two and a half inches across. 

It is extremely probable that the formation of some- of these 
hollows is due to the Echinus lividus, or purple sea-urchin, which 
hollowed out the depressions for residence where exposed to the 
ocean surf. Many good examples may be observed on rocks along 
the littoral. " The investigation of this subject raises an inter- 
esting point," remarks E. Lloyd Praeger, " one which has been 
frequently discussed, and can by no means be settled offhand. In 
the Irish Naturalist for 1892 the cause of the cuplike indentations 
in limestone is gone into. Dr. Scharff disposes pretty conclu- 
sively of the suggestion that these were made by marine organisms, 
and points out the strong evidence of their having been made by 
snails, notably the large Helix aspersa. These perforations were 
in limestone, which the acid secretions of the snail is capable of 
eroding. Some perforations, stated to be made in sandstone, the 
snail could not dissolve, and they are larger and shallower than 
the snail-holes. They are certainly in size and shape similar to 
those which the purple urchin makes, as may be seen at Bundoran 
and elsewhere. This subject should be handled with caution, 
some habitat of the purple urchin visited, its burrows carefully 
examined, measured, and compared with cup-marked stones, and 
they would probably throw light on the subject." 

In Polynesian Researches Ellis attempts to interpret the mean- 
ing of the " dot-and-circle " designs of the Pacific Islanders, the 
exact pattern of those carved by the ancient inhabitants of Ire- 
land. He recounts that in the course of a tour round one of the 
islands he met with a few specimens of what may be termed 
the first efforts of an uncivilized people towards the construction 
of a language of symbols. "Along the southern coast, both on 
the east and west sides, we frequently saw a number of straight 
lines, semi-circles, or concentric rings, with some rude imitation 
of the human figure, cut or carved in the compact rocks of lava. 
They did not appear to have been cut with an iron instrument, 
but with a stone hatchet or a stone less frangible than the rock 
on which they were portrayed." It has often been advanced 
that similar incisions in hard rock in Ireland could only have 
been produced without metallic implements ; but an antiquary, 
experimenting with only the assistance of a flint chisel and a 
wooden mallet, cut in the space of two hours nearly an entire 
circle on a block of granite which bore archaic devices. 


On inquiry Ellis was informed that the Pacific cup-marking 
had been made from a motive similar to that which induces a 
person to carve his initials on a rock or tree, or to record his 
name in an album. Their significations were interpreted to him 
by the natives, as follows: — "When there were a number of 
concentric circles with a dot or mark in the centre, the dot signi- 
fied a man, and the number of rings denoted the number in the 
party who had circumambulated the island. When there was a 
ring and a number of marks it denoted the same, the number of 
marks showing of how many the party consisted, and the ring 
that they had travelled completely round the island ; but when 
there was a semi-circle it denoted that they had returned after 
reaching the place where it was made. In some of the islands 
we have seen the outline of a fish portrayed in the same manner, 
to denote that one of that species or size had been taken near 
the spot ; sometimes the dimensions of an exceedingly large 
fruit, &c, are marked in the same way. With this slight excep- 
tion, if such it can be called, the natives of the Sandwich and 
other islands had no signs for sounds or ideas, nor any pictorial 
representation of events." 

It is to be feared that the missionary was, in this instance, 
the recipient of erroneous information from his converts, who 
were, doubtless, unwilling to impart to their new spiritual adviser 
the true meaning of the symbols. 

W. F. Wakeman thus depicts the general aspect in which 
these rock carvings may be regarded: — "Many men of ancient 
and modern times, confined by necessity to a listless existence in 
an inhospitable region, might very naturally have beguiled their 
hours by carving with a stone or metallic instrument such figures 
as their fancy prompted upon the nearest object which happened 
to present a surface more or less smooth. Scorings or designs 
made under such circumstances would be in character as various 
as the skill or humours of their authors. Now, when in many 
districts of the country, and some of them widely apart, we find 
upon the sides of caves and rocks, and within the enclosure of 
Pagan sepulchral tumuli, a certain well-defined class of engrav- 
ings, often arranged in groups, and, with few exceptions, present- 
ing what may be styled a family type, we can hardly imagine 
them to be the result of caprice." 

It is evident that there is at present no archaeological expla- 
nation offered relative to the origin of Irish rock-sculpturings 
authoritative enough to carry conviction to the mind that the 
real solution of the problem has been ascertained. The follow- 
ing conclusions can, however, be safely drawn, viz. : that all 
these designs were not made without some meaning being 
attached to them at the time they were in use, that they were 


carved by a race which occupied Ireland, and also Great Britain, 
many centuries before the introduction of Christianity, and that 
the figures are in many cases symbolical, for, otherwise, what 
could have induced tribes hundreds of miles apart, and in many 
instances separated by the ocean, to use precisely the same 
designs, unless it were to express some idea, or to aid in the 
elucidation of some superstitious rite common to all, whilst the 
position and circumstances in which the markings are generally 
placed render it extremely probable that they were, in some way, 
connected with the thoughts, religious or otherwise, of those who 
carved them. 

Cup-and-ring markings being probably the most primitive 
of all prehistoric designs, as well as those most widely spread, 
deserve more special notice than they appear to have as yet 
attracted. They are found, as already stated, in the most widely 
separated localities, and in the most unlooked-for places : on 
natural rock surfaces, on isolated boulders, on standing stones, 
near, and in the chambers of, earns, on rude stone monuments, 
on the covering and other slabs of cists, and on early gravestones 
in Christian churchyards. 

From cup-markings being directly associated in many in- 
stances with sepulchral remains, both Pagan and early Christian, 
it may fairly be inferred that they are connected, in some way, 
with funeral rites as sacred emblems ; however, the fact of their 
being found on natural rock-surfaces militates somewhat against 
the theory. 

When of any size, the formation of cup-markings has often 
been attributed to their employment as mortars for pounding 
roots, seeds, nuts, or grain, but as accounting for the marks in 
general, an objection may be pointed out which is fatal to the 
theory. To serve these purposes, the rocks on which they 
occur should be in a horizontal position, but in the majority of 
cases, all the world over, these cups are on shelving rocks, or on 
the faces of perpendicular crags. 

These round cuplike marks are also, it is alleged, suggestive 
of the sun, moon, and stars ; but, as against this, it is to be 
observed that in them the moon is always represented at the full, 
never in phases. If even an occasional figure were found repre- 
senting what, by any ingenuity, could be regarded as a constella- 
tion, some colour might be held to be given to the idea, for there 
can be but little doubt that, in ancient Ireland, some tribes wor- 
shipped the moon. The custom of paying reverence to, and in 
some cases of praying to, the new moon, the first time thai 
luminary" was seen after its changes, survived in folk-lore and 
folk history into the present century, and is mentioned by several 
Irish writers, as well as by a French author, who says of the 


inhabitants of Ireland that they, " se inettant a genoux en voyant 
la lune nouvelle, et disant, en parlant a la hine ; ' laisse nous 
aussi sains qui tu nous a trouve.' " 

Nor does the suggestion that these ubiquitous cup-markings 
were used as dials, for marking time by the light of the sun, find 
any favour, as they occur in places which neither sun nor 
shadow could reach, as, for example, in the interior of stone 
sepulchres in earns. 

They can hardly be regarded as altogether the outcome of the 
leisure time of idle warriors, nor as the exercises of incipient 
engineers, for their wide distribution and their family resem- 
blance, notwithstanding small differences in detail, prove that 
they possess a common origin, and indicate a symbolical mean- 
ing, representing popular thought at the time they were inscribed. 
A Swiss archaeologist believed that he had recognised in the 
sculpturings which came under his observation maps of the 
surrounding district, the cups and dots, in his idea, indicating 
the mountain peaks. This theory is very similar to that held by 
some Irish antiquarians, of which the late Right Reverend 
Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, was the exponent, viz. : — 
" That these markings were maps, or rude plans, pointing out 
the locality and characteristics of the old circular forts in the 
neighbourhood of the sculpturings." The conjecture that these 
Irish carvings were primitive maps appeared to be a fanciful one ; 
however, the Bishop having examined and re-examined the 
subject, came to the conclusion that his theory was correct, 
that the centre of the circles and the neighbouring cups and 
dots arranged themselves, generally three by three, in straight 
lines, or approximately so, and that the ancient raths marked on 
the Ordnance Survey maps appear, to some extent, to lie also 
arranged, three by three, in straight lines. 

It has also been suggested that these circles were intended to 
represent shields. This seems inconsistent with the fact that 
the same rock surface presents so many circular symbols of 
different sizes, varying from the small shallow cup of .".n inch or 
two in diameter to the group of concentric circles two feet 

It has also been advanced that these circles were intended to 
serve as moulds in which metal rings might be cast, or for the 
purpose of playing some game, but the first theory is decisively 
negatived by the fact that circles occur on rock surfaces which 
are not, and never have been, horizontal, and in the second 
place, the objection to the first theory holds good as to the 
second theory, and combined with the great dissimilarity which 
exists between the figures on the same and on different stones 
renders the explanation untenable. 


Some Lave hazarded the opinion that these markings indi- 
cated places for Druidical sacrifices, or for the practice of inagie 
or necromancy, or that they were emblems of the philosophical 
views of the Druids, or symbolic enumeration of tribes or families, 
or a species of archaic writing. Against all these theories, 
there is the objection that the markings have never been found 
in connexion with characters that we, nowadays, could, by any 
possibility, construe as any form of writing, alphabetical, pictorial, 
or otherwise. 

It is impossible to view these markings, so strangely similar 
and so mysterious, spread over almost the entire globe, without 
again and again repeating the questions, by whom were they 
made, and what is their significance? If they were merely 
ornamental, and some of them, no doubt, may be fairly so 
described, they are interesting on account of their catholicity 
and of their family likeness, but there is probably a meaning 
attached to them which is not so easily deciphered. Whoever 
their carvers were, and wherever they lived, it is beyond question 
that for considerable periods they must have inhabited almost 
every known country in the world. The absence of any definite 
arrangement in the position of the cups, and the recurrence of 
the same monotonous figures, cups, dots, rings, and grooves, 
repeated again and again, with hardly any variation in detail, or 
tendency to develop into more ornamental forms, have been 
accounted for by the supposition that they were executed one by 
one, at different times, most probably by different individuals. 
With regard to no advance being made beyond the cup, dot, 
ring, and groove, it may be further suggested that they were 
well recognised and stereotyped symbols, frequently repeated, 
and specially adapted to some ceremonial rite. The idea that 
circles were connected with nature-worship has been dismissed 
by some on account of the apparent absence of much well- 
marked resemblance, but conventional figurings still employed 
in the east, especially in India, for nature-worship, bear, in many 
cases, but the faintest traces of what they are intended to 



The problems of the Ice Age— The Eude Stone Monuments— Of an ancient 
Pagan Literature — Was Early Man a Musician r — Whence came Amber 
Ornaments ? — Whence came Jet Ornaments ? — Whence came Glass Orna- 
ments ? — The ancient Pearl Fisheries— The origin of Gold Ornaments — The 
date of the Introduction of Iron — The true Origin of certain Antiques — The 
date of the first Foundation of a Central Authority in Ireland. 

Ah we have already seen, the surface of Ireland has been again 
and again subjected to the grinding action of land ice, as well as 
to the destructive agency of sea ice and of the sea. It is possible, 
therefore, that the great southern fauna of Britain and rude flint- 
using man may have been contemporaries in Ireland", but if so, 
glaciers, sea ice, and the waves and currents of the ocean have, 
as far as we know, obliterated the evidence of their presence. If 
at a later date the climate again became Glacial, the great Irish 
Big Horn and the reindeer could, at certain periods, migrate from 
North Britain to Ireland across the land connexion or the frozen 
sea. Terminal glaciers and floating ice were depositing, on the 
bed of the shallow sea, rocks and boulders, many of which were 
utilized long ages afterwards by flint-using man in the construc- 
tion of rude stone receptacles for the dead, and rivers of ice were 
scooping out the valleys and moulding those features in the land- 
scape with which we are so familiar. ^Ye seem to view the fall 
and hear the loud resounding crash of avalanches from the 
mountain heights ; we gaze on a landscape enveloped in an icy 
shroud; we behold enormous glaciers with unseen, but neverthe- 
less irresistible motion, creeping down the mountain flanks 
beneath a dimmed sunlight flickering on the surface of the pallid 
snow, and we perceive that we are in the presence of a frozen 
death enthroned triumphant on the frost-bound land. 

The majority of persons who are whirled through the little 
valley or gap in the range of the Ox mountains at Carricknagat, 
six miles from the town of Sligo, comfortably seated in a railway 
carriage, would receive, with a smile of incredulity, the informa- 
tion that the heights on either hand owe their present appearance 


to the action of ice. The valley is covered with verdure, two 
considerable villages nestle in its embrace, cows and sheep graze 
on the fertile soil, yet there is not a square foot of the area 
but was formerly buried beneath an incalculable depth of ice. 
Look at the metamorphic rock-masses which form the flank of 
the mountains. Their ridges are not sharp and covered with 
asperities, but, on the contrary, they are rounded and smoothed 
in an extraordinary manner, so that the polished surfaces they 
present resemble the appearance presented by the backs of a 
closely packed flock of sheep. This planing has been carried out 
by an immense glacier or ice sheet which filled the valley, took 
possession of the entire country between Ballysodare and Sligo, 
and pushed its enormous ice masses westward into the Atlantic 
(fig. 60). This was the huge engine which rounded the rocks; 
this was the mighty ploughshare which cut the deep furrows in 
the solid rock of the mountain side, for this powerful tool could 
not act continuously, during the incalculable period occupied by 
the Great Ice Age, without profoundly modifying the structure of 
the prominences against which it pressed. 

We must picture to ourselves Ireland in general, and the 
west coast in particular, as another Greenland, its sea-loughs 
filled with icebergs, derived from the glaciers that occupied the 
adjacent valleys, those in turn supplied, from the great ice sheet 
that covered the island — ice not at rest, but slowly and surely 
grinding its way onwards towards the sea through the pressure of 
its ever moving mass. In this manner the metamorphic rocks, 
found scattered over the Carrowniore district near Sligo, have 
been carried several miles towards the north-west, for such is the 
direction in which the ice-markings trend in this part of the 
country. These rocks had fallen at intervals from the cliffs of the 
Ox mountains, on to the then existing glaciers, which bore them 
onward, depositing them where they are now found resting on the 
Carboniferous Limestone, erratic specimens of this "metamorphic 
ridge," as the Ox range of mountains is termed by geologists. 
The huge " travelled blocks " of limestone found at Movtirra, an 
elevated, district also in the county Shgo, did not journey far 
from the parent rock, and since reaching their present position 
have weathered into masses more or less irregular, fewer in num- 
ber, but, in general, of vastly greater size than the more travelled 
and harder, yet rounder boulders of Carrowmore. Few places in 
the British Isles exhibit the extreme effects of glaciation better 
than parts of the county Sligo. 

The stratum of stiff clay in which polished or striated 
boulders lie embedded, beds of stratified sands and gravels 
associated with this stiff clay, smoothed, rounded and polished 
old rock surfaces like those at Cavricknagat just noticed, ancient 


excavated lake basins, as at Lough Gill, near Sligo, banks of 
boulders and debris blocking up the ends of valleys, erratic 
boulders perched on mountain sides or scattered over plains 
(fig. 61), all bear corroborative and cumulative evidence to the 
intensity and vast duration of a Great Ice Age, be it of Polar ice 
or of enormously extended local glaciers. The Glacial Age, how- 
ever, did not, as we have seen, comprise only one period of con- 
tinuous and intense cold, but a prolonged time, during which 
there were several alterations in temperature, the ice at one 
period increasing and advancing over the surface of the land, at 
another retiring as the climate ameliorated ; yet, after each 
advance, contracting beyond its original base, and retreating at 
length to the highest mountains ; then finally disappearing. Thus 
a, change, considerably for the better, came over the scene of 
desolation, and the flora and fauna of more temperate climes 
overspread the country. With tbis change of climate polished 
flint-using man makes his entry. 

Very gradually, but surely, we are bringing to light evidence 
which will ultimately form the basis of the true history of the 
land. At present the work is but at its inception, but in a few 
years we shall be able to realise and recall this hoary past almost 
in its entirety. The fragmentary facts which we at present 
possess have been slowly and painfully accumulated. They 
supply us, however, with a foundation upon which future scholars 
may build a theory, possibly one of greater accuracy and detail 
than we now dare hope for. More clear and undisputed facts 
must be collected, the evidence of geology and archeology given 
each its due weight, the opinions of individual scholars and 
investigators examined and tested, and finally a theory elaborated 
such as will account for the facts, framing from all a consistent 
whole. For a long time there must doubtless bemany competing 
theories, but one and another will succumb to the attacks of 
objectors, and finally, by a kind of " survival of the fittest," we 
may hope to gain a fair approximation of the truth. 

Of the history of the far -back past, few pages have been so 
little read, and yet not one is as full of important and deeply 
interesting lore as that which describes the sepulchres of the 
dead. The tombs have been rudely torn open by the hands of 
the spoiler or of the idly curious ; but how seldom have they been 
scientifically examined ? It reflects but little credit on archaeol- 
ogists that no systematic attempt has ever yet been made to 
read this page of Ireland's prehistoric annals. " Why have we 
not a society established with such an object for its aim ? Win 
not have a club of delvers, an exploration society, with its corps 
of engineers, draughtsmen, and scientific observers, whose busi- 
ness it should be to examine the primeval sepulchres of the 





,2 o 


country, not idly, not irreverently, not as desultory diggers, but, 
with due care, circumspection, and caution, noting down every 
peculiarity, making accurate measured drawings, and depositing 
in a central museum the crania, the arms, the implements, and 
ornaments sure to be discovered in abundance ? Here is work 
for energetic men to do, ay, good work, too ! " Half a century 
has passed since this was penned by the late Key. James Graves. 
How little has been done ! 

The anatomist endeavours to extract from death the secret of 
life ; the archaeologist essays to extract from the long entombed 
the secret of the past. If many relics of antiquity are silent, 
others are eloquent of the history of bygone times, and recount, 
in unmistakeable language, the customs and ideas of the race to 
which they belonged. For instance, the erection of rude-stone 
monuments demonstrates that, at the time of their formation, 
the aborigines had, in certain localities, if not throughout the 
entire country, acquired the habit of working in concert, and 
that they were under strict discipline, which is the basis of all 
regulated society. Massive rude-stone monuments erected — not 
over every member of the tribe or family, but — to preserve the 
memory of noted persons, demonstrate that their architects had 
an established standard of pre-eminence. A clue to the dignity 
of- the deceased, as well as to the numerical strength of the 
assembly by which the table-stone was raised, is, to some extent, 
but qualified by geological surrounding conditions, afforded by 
the magnitude of the blocks forming the monument. 

What Ireland was it will never be again. Once it was the 
scene of cannibalism, of fetish worship, and of slavery; for, how- 
ever humiliating the avowal may be to our national pride, it 
must be admitted that in the earliest period of his existence man 
in Ireland (as elsewhere) was scarcely distinguishable from the 
brute creation ; and from the evidence producible it is almost 
impossible not to accuse large portions of the aboriginal popula- 
tion of habitual cannibalism. The Augean stable has been 
cleansed, the relics of the barbarous past are being gradually 
removed, not suddenly, as by the pent-up waters of the Alpheus, 
not by the teachings of Christianity alone, but by the spread of 
knowledge, and by the order of ever-increasing civilization. 

While it is true that the designs on cinerary urns and gold 
ornaments which have been brought to light, and which are 
classified as belonging to the Pre-historic Age, prove the existence 
of a genuine, though somewhat elementary, sense of beauty, yet 
there is nothing, either in material or literary remains, to support 
the assertion of the monastic chroniclers as to the glories of the 
Green Isle of the West at the time when the first missionaries 
began their attempt to convert the people to Christianity. But 


the recognition of the true state of things in ancient Ireland is 
very far from detracting anything from the solid worth of St. 
Patrick's (or the three St. Patricks') achievements, or from the 
honour due to those Irishmen who developed a special school of 
sacred sculpture, furnished missionaries for the evangelization of 
Britain, and for the propagation of the faith on the Continent. 
The description of the ancient glories of Erin, as given by the 
school of enthusiastic historians, may be compared to the mirage 
of the desert, the mere reflection of distant scenes, and the 
phantasmagoria of Eoman and Eastern civilization, which the 
writers, imagining it ought to have existed, finally depicted as if 
actually existing, but now, 

"... like the baseless fabric of this vision, 
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, 

The solemn temples 

shall dissolve, 

And like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind." 

Historical and archEeological sentiment is a fairy-like lichen, 
which grows so luxuriously in the works of Irish writers as 
to completely veil the real structure on which it flourishes. 
Admitting even that these rhapsodies were true, they would only 
be descriptive of a small and polished portion of the population, 
not of the vast bulk of the inhabitants. 

It is, indeed, of little use to argue regarding the probability or 
improbability of the former existence of a state of high civiliza- 
tion in Ireland such as is presupposed by these amiably disposed 
writers. At present there is not a scintilla of evidence in favour 
of such a high and ancient civilization. As there is no evidence 
for it, or at best it is most absurdly insufficient, we should reject 
the theory. If evidence be at any future time produced, it is easy 
to again advance the theory on its merits. As the writer has 
elsewhere observed, we should strive to be honest and unbiassed. 
Supposing that we did not possess the fanciful Irish Annals, how 
would the story of Irish archseology, history, religion, and folk- 
lore have been written ? Where are the inscriptions engraven in 
bronze, marble, or the solid rock, setting forth the acts of kings 
and their conquests with all the pomposity of barbaric pride, 
such as have been left by the rulers of the Eastern and Western 
Umpires ? Where are there traces of the temples of the gods ? 

The civilization of a nation may, to a certain extent, be 
gauged by the architectural outcome of its religion ; up to the 
present time no authenticated remains of any temples or religious 
edifices of the ancient Irish can be pointed to. A fierce and 
warlike race, who raised huge rude stone monuments to the 


honour of their chiefs, appear to have erected these memorials to 
commemorate their dead, and the worship of a deity or deities 
in nowise entered the imagination of their builders, though in 
after times, the dead became, to a certain extent, deified. 
Although the ancient inhabitants, at this stage of human 
existence in Erin, were doubtless somewhat removed from what 
we would regard as mere savagery ; yet, the architectural 
remains which they have left do not exhibit traces of the high 
culture and civilization claimed for them by many enthusiastic 

Where are their remains of ancient cities ? Where are their 
relics of a highly refined domestic life ? We possess many asser- 
tions as to the past glories of the land, but these assertions are 
not supported by discoveries of material remains. It is clear that 
when the East was at the height of its civilization our ancestors 
were mere savages, and were but little better in later times when 
Borne was at the zenith of her glory. 

Why make ourselves ridiculous to present-day culture by 
seeking to place the past of ancient Erin on an eminence which 
existed merely in the imagination of early Monkish chroniclers. 
The late Professor T. H. Huxley, who certainly cannot be 
accused of partiality on such a subject, i.e., that of " Monkish 
chroniclers," observes that : — "We follow the evil example set us, 
not only by Bacon, but by almost all the men of the Renaissance, 
in pouring scorn upon the work of our immediate spiritual fore- 
fathers, the school-men of the Middle Ages. It is accepted as 
a truth which is indisputable that for seven or eight centuries 
a long succession of able men — some of them of transcendent 
acuteness and encyclopaedic knowledge — devoted lives to the 
grave discussion of mere frivolities, and to the arduous pursuit of 
intellectual will-o'-the-wisps. ' ' 

The term ''Monkish chroniclers" is therefore to be under- 
stood as used in no invidious sense ; it is merely employed to 
describe a special school of writers, and it is not intended that 
any odium theologieum should be implied. At the same time it 
must be acknowledged that, if the Pagans possessed a literature, 
it would have been better, for present-day students, had that 
literature come down to our days intact. A general assertion, 
continually made by ecclesiastical, and indeed by many lay 
writers, is that, but for the monks, there would not have been 
any history of ancient times handed down to our day. If, how- 
ever, it be granted, according to the standpoint of these writers, 
that the country possessed a literature prior to the arrival of the 
Christain missionaries, surely the Pagan priesthood were quite 
capable of continuing its custody and attending to its accretions ; 
but they were disestablished and disendowed, and the pen was 


torn from their grasp by the propagators of the new faith. If, 
on the other hand, literature and writing were only introduced 
into the kingdom along with Christianity, it must be at once 
admitted that the monks were the true and only custodians of 
literature. The admission, however, dissolves the basis on which 
rests the alleged glories of ancient Erin. 

Let us bring simple common sense into play, and not acquiesce 
in statements solely because they appear in Irish mss. of a by no 
means ancient date — records such as that of the peopling of 
Ireland before the Flood, of the total extinction of this race who 
yet left behind them a record of the event, and the thousand and 
one other absurdities which it is considered unpatriotic not to 
believe. In treating of the past of ancient Erin a writer must 
neither care for nor be influenced by public opinion, and must be 
a thoroughgoing " hunter after truth." . He must follow the 
advice given by Cicero to the historian : — " Let him not dare to 
say anything that is false, nor fear to say what is true." And 
again : — " The day will come when time and the diligence of later 
ages will bring to light things which now lie concealed ; the day 
will come when our posterity will wonder that we were ignorant 
of tilings so evident." 

Many writers seem to have perceived, at any rate in part, the 
origin of civilization in Ireland, but although vague allusions to 
the real facts are, here and there, dropped by them, they appear 
to have been restrained from plainly expressing their opinions by 
the dread of incurring the odium of a supposed national historical 

Some problems it is impossible to investigate too minutely ; 
and among these, few are of more general interest than those 
which relate to the origin and development of civilization. 
Could we catch a glimpse of the remote past, we should probably 
find that many primitive progressive advancements were the out- 
come of accident. Primitive man stumbled upon a discovery 
and had wisdom enough to profit by it ; modern man, on the 
other hand, starts with a definite idea in view, and carefully 
experiments for its realisation. This is the secret of the slow 
advances of culture in ancient days, and of its cumulative pro- 
gress when resulting, not from mere accident, but from well- 
directed brain-work. The rate of progress increasing thus at 
ever accelerating speed, the day when all attainable knowledge 
shall have been acquired by man may not be so very remote, unless 
the present unsolved problems of science are practically infinite. 
The unceasing toil of life is a perpetual grim struggle, in which, 
with each success, something is being continually gained for 
future generations. Whether we will or not, we must, for our 
own sakes, improve the world for succeeding generations; the 


difference is that the ancients did this unwittingly, we do it 
wittingly. When we look back upon the millions of years that 
have elapsed since life began on this globe, we Can faintly realise 
that, as time rolls by and the rate of human development increases, 
the future will assuredly reveal untold wonders that will make 
our present life appear as rude to those who follow after us, as 
does the existence passed by our prehistoric ancestors appear to 
us. Yet it is but a very superficial observer who regards the 
past with contempt. It filled its sphere ; in its way it did its 
appointed work quite as effectively as does the present. The 
initiation of any operation is most difficult, and instead of blam- 
ing the slow but steady workers of the past, we should, on the 
contrary, thank the men of the Eld who laid the foundation of 
all that has since been built ; for the man who first chipped a 
flint must be regarded as the first of all sculptors ; the man who 
first scratched the rude picture of a mammoth on the bones of 
his quarry was the first of all artists ; the man who first piled 
stones together to form a rude earn over the corpse of one of his 
family was the first of all builders ; and the man who first bored 
a hole in a reindeer's bone to make a whistle, or twanged 
the stretched sinews of his bow-string, was the first of all 

We know that primitive man chipped flints, carved designs 
on bone, and erected earns, but whether or not he was acquainted 
with music is a question to which the reply might be thought 
to rest only on surmise, for no relics of stone have as yet come 
to light that could by any ingenuity be construed as forming 
either part or the whole of a musical instrument. Not only, 
however, has there been one Orpheus, but many Orpheuses in 
the world's history ; musical mythology teems with legends of 
musical geniuses, so that their multiplicity may be said to pre- 
sent an effectual bar to a successful attempt at scientific explana- 
tion. Whistles formed of the phalanges of reindeer have been 
found in the caves of the Dordogne in France, in company with 
bones of the rhinoceros and elephant, and other relics of times in 
which only rude flint implements were used ; yet of musical 
instruments, made of either stone or of bone, none of any 
antiquity have, as yet, been found in Ireland. 

It should be mentioned that the origin of the harp, as given 
in an old Irish ms., differs from that forming the subject of 
Moore's song, i.e. : — 

" "lis believed tliat this liarp, which I wake now for thee, 
Was a siren of old who sung under the sea ; 
And who often at eve through the bright billows roved, 
To meet, on the green shore, a youth whom she loved. 

1 VA S EA RL Y MA A r A MUSICIA N ? 181 

But she loved him in vain, for he left her to weep, 
And in tears, all the night, her gold ringlets to steep, 
Till heaven looked with pity on true love so warm, 
And changed to this soft harp the sea-maiden's form. 

Still her bosom rose fair, still her cheek smiled the same, 
While her sea-beauties gracefully curled round the frame, 
And her hair shedding tear-drops from all its bright rings, 
Fell over her white arms to make the gold strings." 

In his celebrated picture Maclise depicts the siren with her 
long tresses thrown over her arm, which rests on a straight 
fragment of rock, so that her attitude represents the exact form 
of the ancient Irish harp. 

The other old Irish legend, before referred to, states that a 
certain fair lady, overcome with aversion to her husband, fled 
from him to the woods. Attracted one day by the murmur of 
the wind as it sighed through the fins and skeleton of a sea- 
monster which lay on the beach, she listened so long that she 
was lulled to sleep by the weird music. Her husband found her, 
and, noting the cause of her slumber, he formed the framework 
of a harp from the branches of a neighbouring tree, to which 
he attached strings made from the fins of the stranded whale. 
This was the origin of the first harp. The tale is borrowed, with 
but little disguise, from the classics. 

Combs, formed of bone, are found amongst the earliest relics 
of primitive civilization ; for, on a remote day in the world's 
unwritten history, it struck some prehistoric beauty, as she con- 
templated her reflection in the waters of some tranquil tarn, that 
her tangled hair required more orderly arrangement, and the 
passage of her fingers through her matted locks was the initiatory 
stage in the invention of the comb (figs. 02, 03). In the history 
of inventions, woman has been almost invariably the originator 
of all the peaceful arts of life, whilst man has been the initiator 
in devising the means of killing his fellow-man, the inventor in 
every murderous art. 

In Ireland weapons, whether of flint or bronze, were, in general, 
of home manufacture. Gold was a product of the Wieklow moun- 
tains. Silver in smaller quantities, and at a much later period, 
appears to have been extracted from native ores ; but Irish silver 
articles are not relics of Pagan times ; it will probably be yet found 
that amber, jet, and glass ornaments were all made in our island. 
Professor Huxley was of the same opinion with regard to the 
Continent, and believed that every raw material " employed ill 
Kurope up to the Palreo-metallie stage, is to be found within tha 
limits of Europe." 

Fiq. 62. 
The Initiatory Stage in the Invention of the Comb. 

Fig. 63. 
Combs from the Sites* of Lake Dwellings in the West of Ireland. Half real size. 


Amber was employed in the formation of ornaments, such as 
beads, dress -fasteners, rings, and bracelets ; the beads vary greatly 
in size, from diminutive objects to those nearly three inches in 
length. Many writers allege that amber was not found in Ire- 
land. It is present in a series of deposits only to be found in 
Ireland near Lough Neagh. Both amber and jet are present in 
quantities about the southern shores of the Baltic, and some 
writers are of opinion that ancient Irish objects of amber came 
from thence. There also appears to be a small but continual 
drift of this amber into the North Sea ; and amber found on the 
east coast of England is considered to be of an extremely good 
quality, as it must have been, to have survived its long journey. 
From the evidence of numerous discoveries, it is thought that 
there was, in prehistoric times, an amber trade from the north of 
Europe to the Mediterranean. Also that the Greek tale of the 
Heliades had its origin in northern latitudes, and that the Vistula, 
where amber is found, is pointed to in the legend of the weeping 
daughters of the sun, whose tears are transformed into amber. 
In Central Bussia there is an earth amber, and a salt sea must 
have been there in very remote times, as tiny bubbles of salt 
water have been discovered on cutting it open for purposes of 
manufacture. In it the scent of the brine has been hermetically 
sealed up for vast geological asons, in the same way that the scent 
of the pine-forest remains a permanent characteristic of amber in 
general. However this may be, it is highly probable that, from 
remote antiquity, a trade in amber existed between the shores of 
the Baltic and other parts of Europe. Its first discovery by 
savage man was, in all likelihood, owing to its being loosened 
from its native bed in the sands of the seashore and flung by the 
waves upon the beach. Primitive man soon learnt to smooth 
and polish these lumps ; for on the Continent, in interments of 
the Stone Age, some instances are found where amber ornaments 
are laid in the grave with the dead ; in the Bronze Age the use 
of amber became common. Early commerce, if the term be 
applicable to siich primitive traffic, is based, as a rule, not on the 
interchange of useful products but on barbaric geegaws, much 
in the same way as, in the present day, barter is" carried on 
between European traders and wild tribes of Central Africa. 
Everything seems to point out that, in primeval times, man 
possessed rudimentary commercial instincts, and collected objects 
which possessed to him what to us would be designated a pecuniary 
value, and hoarded them most probably for purposes of exchange. 
The subject of ancient commerce in amber is of great 
interest ; for, if the extent of that commerce and its routes could 
be well defined, much that is at present obscure in the early 
unwritten history of the inhabitants of the British Isles would 




Fio. ru. 

Amber Bead, with Ogham In- 
scription. Full size. Repro- 
duced from the Journal of 
the present Society of Anti- 
quaries ol Ireland. 

become clear. An amber bead, with an ogham inscription, 

was for many generations in the possession of a family named 

O'Connor in the county Clare. It 

was used as an amulet for the cure 

of sore eyes, and was also believed to 

insure safety to pregnant women in their 

hour of trial. After many vicissitudes it 

came into the possession of Lord Londes- 

borough. The following is one of the 

readings of this curious inscription, but 

it must, in all candour, be stated that 

\/// it does not appear to be the true trans- 

w</l|jl / lation : A Talailh wna, i.e. "At a 

"x/li / / IX — woman's delivery " (fig. 64). 

1 Prior to the year 1848 very handsome 

rosaries, composed of amber beads, were 
not uncommon in West Galway and the 
barony of Burren, county Clare. During 
the years of the famine many of these 
rosaries were sold to collectors, but a few 
still remain in use. 
The attractive or electric properties of amber early invited 
attention .(E/ekiel i. 4) ; and the rubbing of a piece of amber 
evoked, to use Faraday's words, "an invisible agent which has 
done for mankind far more wonderful things than the genii of 
Aladdin did or could have done for him." Worn round the neck 
in the shape of beads, amber was thought to ward off disease, it 
was also dissolved and used as a medicine. Many other super- 
stitions relating to it could be given. The Finns and Lapps 
believe, like the Irish peasantry, that amber cures rheumatism, 
neuralgia, and other ailments. 

Jet appears to have been extensively employed in the manu- 
facture of decorative objects, principally necklace-beads, dress- 
fasteners, large rings, and bracelets. In the year 1200 Bartho- 
lomew Angelieus, an English Fransciscan, states that jet was 
found in Ireland. Jet may occur in other places in the kingdom, 
but it certainly was obtained from the coal-measures of Ballycastle, 
county Antrim. A sample of an early specimen from this locality 
is in the Dublin Museum. In the year 1770 miners in the 
Ballycastle collieries broke into an old working, and on entering 
they were astonished to find a complete gallery, supported by 
pillars, branching into various chambers. Here lay the remains 
of baskets and other appliances of the ancient workmen, but all, 
on being touched, crumbled to dust. 

With the ancients, jet was held in peculiar value, as it was 
.supposed by them, according to Pliny, to possess the power of 


banishing noxious serpents. Bede also describes jet as having 
the power, when burnt, of driving away snakes, and that when 
warmed by friction it possessed the attractive properties of amber. 
It should, however, be pointed out that Bede's account is evi- 
dently merely copied from that of Solinus. 

If not a variety of coal, jet presents a strange affinity to it. It 
has the appearance of having been, long ages ago, a gunrmy 
semi-liquid mass ; for as insects of remote geological 930ns are 
seen in amber, so foreign substances are found embedded in 
pieces of jet, and crevices in the rock are often filled with it, as 
though it had poured into them when in a liquid state. 

There is a description of natural glass, generally found in 
volcanic centres, called obsidian, usually of a black colour and 
opaque, except in thin splinters. This material was used by the 
Egyptians and Romans in the formation of small artistic vessels. 
The art of fabricating the glass of commerce reaches back to 
such an early date that its origin is absolutely lost. Pliny 
recounts the tale, known to all schoolboys, how a ship returning 
from Egypt with a cargo of soda was cast away on the coasts of 
Palestine, and how the shipwrecked crew, when cooking their 
food over a fire made on the shore, found afterwards, under the 
cinders, glass formed by the action of the heat upon the alkali 
and the sand. As far as present information tends, it seems to 
have been in Egypt or Assyria that the earliest glass was manu- 
factured. In the British Museum there is a bead bearing hiero- 
glyphics by which it is computed that it was made about 2400 b.c. 

There is one form of glass ornament which is found chiefly, if 
not, indeed, exclusively, in Ireland, made of green vitrified 
porcelain or opaque glass, in shape somewhat like a dumbbell. 
Though, doubtless, glass beads were first introduced from the 
Continent, or from Great Britain, as a means of barter, yet traces 
of continental influence are not so very perceptible as might be 
imagined ; the trade of making them probably spread quickly 
over the country, and thus originated varieties of the introduced 

Tacitus mentions that pearls were found on the coast of 
Britain. Bede, quoting apparently from Solinus, says that 
excellent specimens were found in the British seas, varying in 
colour, though principally white. In Ireland pearls seem to 
have been formerly plentiful, and many rivers were celebrated for 
the quantities found in them. A writer of the seventeenth century 
states that tbe pearls of the river Slaney, " though not abundant, 
are yet excellent." Sir Robert Reading, in the year 1688, drew 
attention to the structure and colour of Irish pearls, and records 
that the river Barm was famous for its pearl fishery. The 
common method then in practice of procuring fresh-water 


mussels, in shape and colour like sea mussels, was very simple. 
In the warm summer months, when the river was low and 
the water clear, tlie county people waded in the stream and 
gathered the shells, of such size that they were used, by the 
poor, as a substitute for spoons. In two works published at the 
close of the eighteenth century, this pearl fishery is again men- 
tioned. In Smith's "History of Cork," pearls are stated to have 
been found in one of its rivers. O'Conor, in his " Prolegomena," 
mentions that Gilbert, Bishop of Limerick, writing to St. Anselm, 
who had consecrated him, says that "he had sent him pearls 
as a slight token of respect." Pearls are still found, in small 
quantities, in fresh-water mussels, in a few of the Gahvay rivers, 
in various streams in Tyrone and Donegal, as well as in several 
other localities. Should these pearl fisheries of Ireland lie again 
started, to the mussel-gatherers may be addressed the Kelpie's 
refrain, which so perturbed the sacristan of St. Mary's as he 
took with her his moonlight swim :— 

" Good luck to your fii-liin^." 

Gold antiquities, rightly considered, are historical documents 
of the most valuable description, for, with proper study, they will 
help to elucidate and extend our knowledge of the arts, crafts, and 
general state of civilization of what is, at present, a very obscure 
period in the history of ancient Erin. With regard to gold, it is 
stated that there is no European country in which such a number of 
ancient personal ornaments of this precious metal have been found 
as in Ireland. Hoards of broken and fractured bronze implements 
bear witness to interrupted preparations for re-casting, and col- 
lections of secreted gold ornaments, twisted and contorted, 
suggest a like purpose. Scattered broadcast over the country, it 
would also appear that, in many instances, gold articles were 
hidden in haste, possibly at a time when the foe pressed hotly at 
the heels of the vanquished. In ancient days mother earth was 
the only bank to which owners confided their gold. Even 
now-a-days we know that the best bank is a bank of earth, as it 
rarely refuses to discount honest labour, and the best share 
is the ploughshare, on which dividends are generally liberal. It 
would be impossible to say how much wealth lies hid in primitive 
man's ancient bank, for all kinds of ornaments still remain 
concealed, and that, most probably, in the strangest and most 
unobtrusive spots. One discovery of an antique occurred on the 
site of a long-used dunghill which had been scraped rather more 
deeply than usual. Auruiii c xtrmur. Other objects have been 
occasionally brought to light under almost equally strange cir- 
cumstances, for a beautiful torque was scratched out of the soil 
by a fox in making afresh earth. 


Belief in buried treasure is universal throughout Ireland. 
Until lately the majority of old pagan funeral urns were broken 
into fragments by the irate discoverers- ; irate for this reason : — 
it was, and still is, in some parts of the country, a popular belief 
amongst the peasantry that the bones and charcoal contained in 
the vessels were in reality golden coin and ornaments belonging 
to the "good people," or fairies, and that they returned to gold 
during the night, but if watched with proper precautions and 
ceremonies, the fairy gold at daybreak would still remain gold. 
On failure of the incantations, the disappointment of the finder 
generally found expression in the fracture of the vase, and the 
scattering of its contents. The proverb, ai/0pa<ces o d-qa-avpo^ 
Trify-qvev, i.e. " our treasure turned out to be charcoal," appears to 
•demonstrate that the deceitfulness of " fairy gold " was a current 
■delusion amongst the ancient Greeks. The superstition is of 
undoubted Eastern origin. In a description of the excavations 
■carried on in the mound of Tell-el-Hesy, supposed to be the site 
of the ancient city of Lackish, the explorer recounts how he was 
waited upon by a deputation from the workmen, consisting of 
Arabs and Fellaheen, and begged not to any further bewitch the 
" tell " or hill. " You come to a ' tell ' that is full of gold and 
treasure, and bewitch them into the form of potsherds. Then 
you dig out the potsherds, take them to your own country, undo 
the spell, and they turn back to gold and treasure." The Bedouin 
also believe that immense treasures were concealed by King 
Solomon beneath the foundation of the city of Palmyra, in the 
subterranean passages under Jerusalem — in fact, almost every- 
where, committed to the care of evil spirits, which still watch 
over them. When the Arabs, therefore, see Europeans exploring 
among ruins, they believe them to be in search of these hidden 
riches, and, if employed as labourers, claim beforehand their 
share in the find. T. Crofton Croker gives an amusing account 
of having, in the year 1814, come upon nearly a hundred peasants 
at work on the side of a hill called " Castle Treasure," so named 
from pieces of wrought gold having from time to time been found 
there. The exertions of the gang, employed in uprooting and 
turning over the rocks and boulders with which the surface of 
the ground was covered, were under supervision of a tall female 
wrapped in a ragged cloak, who with a long pole pointed now here, 
now there, and whose motions were implicity obeyed by the move- 
ment of the labourers towards the spot indicated. This witch said 
she had dreamed, three nights in succession, of a great treasure 
which lay beneath the surface of the field, and for a given quan- 
tity of tobacco and whiskey had engaged to point it°out to her 
neighbours, being afraid to undertake the search without plenty 
of company, for the treasure was guarded by a fiery dragon. The 


country people had worked under the guidance of the woman for 
three day^i, but had found nothing to reward their exertions. Mr. 
Croker's- companion, greatly diverted by the scene, advised one of 
the labourers, instead of searching for gold, to clear and manure 
the ground, as under this treatment it would yield results a* 
good as if the crock of gold for which they were searching had 
been discovered. The strange part of the story iu that this man, 
taking him at his word, rented the farm, and suddenly became 
rich ; subsequently he gave his adviser a circular piece of gold, 
artistically ornamented, evidently of great antiquity. Several 
other articles, formed of precious metal, were traced to his hands, 
and it is therefore evident that it was not entirely owing to the 
returns of agricultural outlay that the farmer became a man of 
wealth and importance in the district. 

At the foot of Cope's Mountain, near Sligo, to the west of the 
road leading from the town to Glencar, and in the townland of 
Drum, there are the remains of a rude stone sepulchral monu- 
ment, which not many years ago narrowly escaped total oblitera- 
tion, A countryman having dreamed twice successively that a 
crock of gold was buried under the monument waited impatiently 
for the dream to be repeated a third time, as this would have 
completed the charm; however, it never did recur, and conse- 
quently the tomb escaped destruction. Another monument 
closely adjoining was less fortunate. Owing to a legend, preva- 
lent among the peasantry, that a chief of the O'Rorkes had many 
centuries ago concealed his treasures in this "Giant Grave" 
previous to a great battle — in which both he and his favourite 
henchman, who alone knew of the hoard, were killed— some 
country people nearly demolished the monument. It is needless 
to add no treasures were discovered. Avaricious gold dreamers, 
by this means converted into gold seekers, have probably inflicted 
nioie irreparable archaeological damage, particularly on these 
interesting monuments, than the desecrating foreign enemy. The 
burial of personal ornaments with people of distinction was 
conformable to a usage of ancient times, both as regards Erin 
as well as other countries. Traditions abound everywhere of 
buried treasure, and the truth of these tales is sometimes 
apparently corroborated by the discoveries of ornaments worn 
during life by the occupants of the grave. 

Near the village of Cliffoney are the remains of a "Giant's 
Grave," presenting no feature of interest. No inducement could 
prevail on the tenant to allow of an excavation. He and his 
father before him, lie stated, refused to do so, although "untold 
go hi " had been offered. However, some lew days afterwards, 
having occasion to verily the compass bearings of the monument, 
a return to the spot 'nas necessitated, when it became evident 


that, in the interval, the grave had been dug out to a great 
depth. In short, the suspicious yokel, imagining that the con- 
templated search was for a crock of gold, had ■ determined to 
retain the treasure for himself. 

In " Vestiges and Eelics of Youghal," Edward Fitzgerald re- 
counts a very similar instance of vandalism. Writing in the year 
1858, he states that : — " Of sepulchral mounds or cairns I lately 
counted up eight in the neighbourhood of Castlemartyr, four of 
which have been destroyed within a few years. One at Clasharinka, 
about a mile north of Castlemartyr, was lately destroyed by 
persons coming from a distance, hunting for money in it. The 
farmer on the land told me that he thought, if there was money 
to be got in it, he had the best right to it, and when the last 
party who came there left off their operations, he continued the 
work until a large massive stone was discovered of about ten feet 
diameter, oval-shaped, and about thirteen inches thick. This 
stopped the digging for the time, but beneath the great stone he 
was sure he had the gold. On getting some gunpowder this was 
soon blown to fragments, revealing a stone cist or chest of about 
seven feet by three, within which was a perfect human skeleton 
in good preservation. This did not deter the money-hunter, for 
the bones and chest were also dug out. But it was all to no 
purpose, so the opening was again filled up, and is still to be seen 
furze-grown and untilled. The farmer did not seem too well 
pleased on being told that he had, in this way, been desecrating 
the remains of one of his Celtic forefathers. Pointing across the 
road, he said that three similar relics were destroyed there on the 
linds of Ballyvourisheen, and lots of human remains found in 

The same writer states that scores of wild legends are told of 
a Formorian giant who died in the neighbourhood of Youghal 
and had his treasure buried in his fort. He caused it to be so 
guarded, that no person who dreamed of his hidden gold was 
ever able to get at it. Many attempted it, but the adventurers 
were generally frightened away by the appearance of a 
huge cock that came flying into their faces, crowing and 
flapping its wings in a wonderful manner. Others, more 
daring, held their ground on sight of this appaiation, but 
decamped on the advent on the scene of a monstrous bull. 
Other still more doughty delvers persisted, until they were in 
the act of lifting the huge flagstone which covered the giant's 
treasure, when out rushed the owner, using language which 
must not be repeated in polite society, and followed by a fiery 
blast that so scorched the diggers that they beat a hasty and very 
undignified retreat. One time, however, a party more adventur- 
ous than usual held their ground, whereupon the cock and the 


bull came to the giant's assistance, and drove away the gang of 
treasure seekers in ignominous rout, and so ends this " Cock 
and Bull Story." 

At the time of St. Patrick's mission to the Pagan Irish the 
ladies of the period wore numerous gold ornaments, and a great 
number were presented by the early converts as offerings to the 
Church. St. Patrick, in his " Confessio," thus alludes to the 
custom : — " I have endeavoured to be on my guard, even with 
Christian brethren and virgins of Christ and religious women 
who, of their own accord, used to bestow gifts upon me, and 
to place their ornaments on the altar ; but I returned them again 
to them." 

Many Eastern women, of various nationalities, still wear their 
entire fortune on their persons, in the shape of gold coins and 
ornaments. This is probably caused by the sense of security in an 
unsettled state of society, imparted by palpable possession. It 
has the additional advantage of enabling suitors to reckon up the 
value, as well as to admire the objects of their affection. The 
same idea also may, in olden days, have induced the ladies of 
ancient Erin to carry about their fortunes on their persons, 
though it is open to doubt if the poet Moore's lines correctly por- 
tray the civilization then existing, and the lionesty of the entire 
population when a young woman's 

" maiden smile 

In safety lighted her round the green Isle." 

If, however, the lines depict the only clothing worn by her, 
the picture drawn by the poet may probably be correct. 

From the earliest period of mythical history witness is borne 
to the abundance of gold in the country. One celebrated artificer, 
it is stated, prosecuted his smelting labours in a locality generally 
identified as one on the banks of the Lili'ev, on the borders of 
Wicklow and Wexford, where native gold is still found. For 
many years prior to 17U5 gold had been found by the neighbour- 
ing peasantry in the Ballinvally stream, a tributary of the Avoca, 
and in two months preceding the occupation of the place by the 
Government in 1796 no less than 2500 ounces of gold had been 
washed. Besides the Wicklow district, there are other localities 
in which gold in small quantities is stated to be present, namely, 
in Wexford, Kildare, Tyrone, Antrim, and Derry. Gold was 
found in a stream in the county Derry which falls into the north- 
west corner of Lough Neagh. The country people who live in the 
vicinity have a tradition corroborating this, but it has not been 
ascertained if any gold has recently been found in the river-bed. 

Mr. J. W. Mallet, in the year 1853, published the results of the 
chemical examination of several ancient Irish gold ornaments, 


undertaken in the expectation that the information thus obtained 
might be found of value in determining whether they were manu- 
factured from native gold or from alloys artificially produced. 
From the results obtained by the analysis it was concluded that 
the probabilities were somewhat in favour of the articles having 
been made with artificially produced alloys, but it is evident that 
before anything very definite on the subject can be written more 
numerous experiments are requisite. Those recently made 
coincide, to a great extent, with the assays of Mr. Mallet. It 
was apparent, however, that, in the more modern articles, com- 
paratively large quantities of silver and copper occurred. It is 
known that there are some natural alloys, and also that electrum 
was much used for ornaments and coins by the Eomans, and 
afterwards by the nations which imitated their arts. An artificial 
as well as a natural electrum was also used by them. 

The view taken by the late W. Frazer, f.e.c.s.i., respecting 
the source of early gold ornaments found in Ireland was that 
they are made of imported gold ; that the idea that gold was 
ever found in Ireland is incorrect. He was of opinion that the 
theory of its being native of the soil is chimerical — 

'■ like our Lagenian mine, 

Where sparkles of golden splendour 

All over the surface shine ? 
But, if in pursuit we go deeper 

Allured by the gleam that shone, 
Ah ! false as the dream of the sleeper, 

Like Love, the bright ore is gone." 

Dr. Frazer considered that the fabrication of early Irish 
ornaments implies considerable metallurgic skill, and the pos- 
session of means for smelting gold in ample quantity, and sub- 
sequently manufacturing ornaments from it. He was of opinion 
that the primitive inhabitants of these lands — before the advent 
of the Eomans, and Eomangold workers in Britain — had not the 
necessary skill, and he asserted that Ireland is not a gold pro- 
ducing land, its auriferous district a limited corner of the county 
Wicklow, where it was accidentally found about one hundred 
years ago and soon worked out. The great central limestone 
plain, the extensive bogs, the gneissose rocks of Donegal, the 
chalk measures of Antrim, the coal districts about Kilkenny, and 
the sandstones of the south and west are incapable of yielding 
gold, nor have other granite districts (except Wicklow) shown 
traces of it. Thus almost the entire geologic formations of Ireland 
are hopeless as gold fields. No one as yet has sought for it in 
the quartz rocks, and it is doubtful if they contain even the 
slightest trace of gold. But if it is present, all the skilled 


appliances of modern civilization would be needful to pulverize 
the rock and seek after the metal. 

Again, according to the above authority, Wicklowgold differs 
in composition and density from the gold found in Irish orna- 
ments, being of inferior purity and specific gravity, whilst these 
ornaments have a certain composition and gravity which 
approximates to that of Roman aurei coined by Diocletian and 
subsequently. Gold workers have found it convenient, when 
making ornaments to melt down coin ; it is an easily available 
source of metal, of known weight and recognised purity, and 
when remelting it, the addition of a small amount of alloy, diffi- 
cult to detect, compensates for possible loss and augments the 
profit. From the uniformity of the gold in Irish ornaments there 
is reason to believe it was so obtained. Furthermore, Dr. Frazer 
believed it is evident from the weights of these Irish gold orna- 
ments that they were fabricated from coins weighing 72to 70grains, 
and such is the weight of Roman aurei from the time of Diocletian 
to the fall of the Roman Empire. Amidst the vicissitudes of 
coinage of silver and copper, gold was maintained at its recognised 
standard and full weight. Any apparent exceptions amongst the 
ornaments are explained by the recognised practice of employing 
a variable number of coins, one, two, or more for making two, 
three, five articles, and so on. 

Great quantities of gold circulated in Roman Britain for pay- 
ing the Legionaries and for purposes of commerce. So long as 
Rome was supreme, invasions from Scotia and Caledonia were 
repelled ; but from the time of Diocletian repeated devastations 
reduced it to barbarism, and Celtic kingdoms were founded in 
Cornwall, in Wales, and in North Britain. Britain was thoroughly 
drained of its gold by these Celtic invaders, who, as coin was use- 
less to them, had it converted into personal decorations. The 
presence of gold ornaments in Scandinavia, a land unproductive 
of gold, has been accounted for by their being made out of gold 
brought in coin from Rome or from Byzantium. 

To bring before the mind's eye of the reader the ordinary 
processes used in the manufacture of gold ornaments, we must 
take a look into the workshop of a craftsman of this early period. 
The first operation of the workman was to try to melt the metal. 
Coal was unknown, but charcoal, especially birchwood charcoal, 
generates a greater heat than coal, and birch being then plentiful, 
it is almost certain that it was the fuel used in ancient, as it is 
often in modern, times. A small furnace with an orifice at the 
bottom, and some means of producing a draught, would develop 
the necessary heat, and the pot or crucible containing the gold 
would be buried in the centre of the glowing mass of charcoal. 
A mould cut in stone, or the impression of a model of the 


required form in soft blue clay, for that material stands the greatest 
degree of heat, would, when baked, answer the purpose of casting 
the ingot, and into this mould the gold would be poured. The 
craftsman would now have a piece of gold somewhat near the 
required shape. But mere castings would not answer, as in this 
condition gold is of a porous and spongy nature, and requires 
hammering, and it has been remarked that most ancient gold 
ornaments are very close in the grain. Thus the only tools and 
appliances necessary for the production of gold ornaments were 
a furnace, crucible, mould, flux, hammers, anvils, and tools for 
producing concentric rings. 

It is well to note that no really ancient coin has as yet been 
conclusively proved to have been discovered in Ireland. Sir 
William Betham alleged that Etruscan silver money had been 
found, but this assertion has never been authenticated. The 
majority of coins are from Roman mints, and bear date about the 
time of the break up of imperial rule in Great Britain. It is 
certain that the Irish possessed no coined money, and there can 
be little doubt but that, at a very late period, the precious metals 
were amongst them, valued by weight as a circulating medium, 
sometimes as ingots, possibly also in, the form of rings ; hence, 
probably, the frequent employment of the epithet " extractors of 
rings," as applied to the northern invaders by native historians. 
These northmen were the first to issue silver money in Ireland, 
for at no period of her history had Ireland a gold coinage. In 
its origin and to its end the cm-rency was silver. The first silver 
coins were struck by the Danish kings of Dublin, Waterford, and 
Limerick. Although the Danish and Norse invaders carried off 
great quantities of Irish gold, they utilised it, not for coinage 
purposes.but for personal decoration, inlaying with it, among°st 
other articles, the handles of their swords. Hence Irish gold 
omaments_ gradually disappeared in the North, and many 
Scandinavian weapons, and persoual ornaments now exhibited 
in museums _ are doubtless inlaid or formed of these stolen 
treasures which supplemented the spoils of Borne and of 

When these freebooters had beaten their swords into plough- 
shares, or had developed into honest merchants, and their 
piratical barques had been converted into peaceful traders, their 
silver money became, on account of its purity, the standard 
coinage of the then trading world. From it is derived the 
designation of " sterling," applied to our ourreucv or legal tender. 
" Uasterling" was, according to llollinshed, the popular term 
employed to describe " merchants of Nonvaie, Denmark, and of 
other those parties called Ostomanni, or as, in our vulvar 
language, we terme easteriing, because they lie east in respect 1 of 


us '' ; and coin of the realm, " since that time," says Camden, 
" was called of them sterling for Easterling." 

Iron and Christianity were introduced into the country 
within an approximately short period of each other, for although 
iron may, in small quantities, have found its way into Ireland 
through the ordinary channels of commerce open at, or just 
before, the commencement of the Christian era, yet iron ingots 
or iron articles so acquired would be comparatively few in number. 
The approximate date of the introduction of iron into the southern 
portion of Britain has been estimated, by various authorities, at about 
200 B.C., some writers leaning to a later period. From this part 
it spread slowly northward. In the .Scotch Highlands the Bronze 
Age lasted for a considerable time — in fact, down to a period 
considerably later than that of the Roman conquest of Britain ; 
yet iron was nevertheless known, but to a very limited extent, to 
the Caledonians north of the Roman wall, who were otherwise 
but little affected by the introduced civilization to the south of 
the Roman barrier. To the Romanized Briton the rude Cale- 
donian was what the African savage is to the Englishman of 
to-day, or what the Highlander of the seventeenth century 
appeared to the Englishman of that period. 

The position of Ireland marked it out, more so even than the 
Caledonian mountain fastnesses, as the extreme point of European 
civilization. The relics of the past which it has yielded from its 
soil can be properly classified only when studied in the light of 
those found in Great Britain and on the Continent. Thus, every 
early iron antique which is unearthed may be regarded as a 
record of the history of metallic transition, and it is by compar- 
ing these waifs of time, and subjecting them to the assay of 
science, that we shall force them to tell their true story. Ireland 
was the last resort of the earlier, as of the later, races who 
peopled western Europe. Thus, its prehistoric age could not 
have commenced, as already pointed out, till after that of the 
rest of Europe. Indeed, it is extremely probable that, in the 
earliest Paheolithic or rude Stone Age period, it was too frigid 
for habitation, and its area may for a brief period, from a geo- 
logical point of view, have been bereft of human life. It may 
thus be said that throughout the ages the inhabitants of Ireland 
were, by no fault of their own, but by geological conditions, 
chronically behind the times. It is probable therefore that 
the knowledge of iron reached Ireland at a much later date 
than it reached England ; so that, allowing a considerable 
interval for an overlap, it is possible that iron had not ad- 
vanced into universal use in Ireland, at the very earliest, much 
before the close of the fourth century of the Christian Era. 
According to some other authorities the introduction of iron 



occurred at an even much later period, long after it was well 
known on the Continent and in England. Some writers assign 
a date of about two thousand years past for its introduction, yet 
it does not appear to have obtained absolute supremacy over 
bronze until after the arrival of the colonies of Danish settlers and 
of northern piratical fleets, about, at the earliest, the sixth and 
seventh centuries. The transition from bronze to iron in a 
country of such extent as Ireland, divided into hostile populations, 
must have occupied a period which may be reckoned by centuries, 
for there must have been an epoch 
when, in each of these small indepen- 
dent communities, the new metal was 
being introduced and the old conditions 
of civilization had been entirely changed. 

Fine Golden-coloured UronzolMl of 
the class styled " Crot.ils," found 
at l>n\vris, near Itin, in a large 
bronze caldron, toe/etiier with 
other antiques, Halt size. 

Fig. 66. 

Ecclesiastical Bell, made of iron, the 
missing. Found in a bog at Tybroi 
Mullhigar. One quarter real size. 

tongue is 
ban, near 

The rectangular bells of the early missionaries — examples, 
it is alleged, of primitive Christian metal work— are of rude and 
unfinished manufacture It was evidently a trade at which they 


were novices, though their work in bronze and gold had been 
brought to great perfection. The fine bells of the late bronze 
period, as witnessed by the Dowris find (fig. 65), are in finish and 
design indefinitely superior to the wretched productions alleged 
to have belonged to the early Irish saints (fig. 66). The iron 
bell, as shown in fig. 66, resembles articles very frequently found 
on the sites of Roman villas in England. The iintinnabulum , or 
small handbell, was probably used to summon the slaves and 
attendants when their services were required. These bells are as 
frequently square as round, and are usually made of bronze. The 
development of Irish art after the introduction of Christianity was 
the outcome of the mixture of the two styles of ornamentation, 
the Irish or Pagan, and the Continental or Christian. In Britain 
Roman Art appears to have almost entirely supplanted Celtic Art, 
but in Ireland the native style of ornamentation was conserved 
intact until the introduction of Christianity. During the period 
that followed, a new religion and a fresh civilization rose suddenly 
into eminence, and then slowly sank into decrepitude. 

Hitherto when any peculiar antique, composed either of metal 
or other material, has been for the first time discovered, Irish 
archaeologists assign to it a foreign, frequently a Roman origin ; 
yet these waifs of time are, in general, ultimately identified as of 
home manufacture. Every archaeological relic has its history : it 
has either already told its tale, or its story has to be read, and we 
thus learn how and when it was made, what it was used for, and 
how it came to be lying where it was found. 

" The}' are the 

Registers, the chronicles of the age 

They were made in, and speak the truths of history 

Better than a hundred of your printed communications." 

In systematic research, close and accurate observation is 
absolutely necessary, the imperfection of our present knowledge, 
and the limitation of our experience involve uncertainty as 
to special classification of some works of art. By patient 
analysis we can alone hope to accomplish solid results, and arrive 
at clear, broad, and thoroughly correct deductions. Exceptional 
specimens should therefore be temporarily adjudged, until the 
contrary is demonstrated, as being of native workmanship, and 
not imported articles. If the numerous articles belonging to the 
ordinary usage of everyday life which have been found on pre- 
historic sites in different parts of the kingdom were collected 
together and arranged, they would, no doubt, go far towards 
giving us a perfect picture of the civilization of the population of 
early times. Unfortunately, great numbers have been lost or 
destroyed ; many of those which remain are scattered about in 


private collections, from the want of a really national and scientifi- 
cally arranged collection in which to deposit them. 

Ireland, until a time well advanced in the Christian Era, 
appears to have been peopled by an aggregation of tribes, isolated 
from the European continent and developing their civilization in 
a manlier more or less peculiarly their own. When Irish society 
became known to the classic world — and Latin authors are by no 
means complimentary as to its manners and customs — it was 
already well advanced in this the tribal state. It is interesting 
to reflect that these writers, when applying the terms "barba- 
rians" and "savages" to the inhabitants of Ierne and of 
the Britannic Isles, little dreamed that the despised islanders, 
recruited, however, by the subsequent accession of much northern 
and truly " barbarian " blood, would found an empire far sur- 
passing that of Eome, and extend their sway over regions and 
continents then unheard of. A number of tribes are enumerated 
by classic authors, but no mention is made of a monarch exercis-^ 
ing universal sway as described by later native writers. The Irish 
were merely in the intermediate stage of the development of a 
nation ; they had passed the limits of the family, and were in the 
tribal stage. From a variety of causes, this mass was never welded 
together into a really compact body. General and chronic war- 
fare proved fatal to the advancement of the community, and this 
state of things, prolonged through endless centuries, kept the 
population divided into numerous hostile septs, and stereotyped 

Moore, in his History of Ireland, writing on this subject, 
remarks that " the sanguinary broils of a nation armed against 
itself have no one elevating principle to redeem them, and are 
inglorious alike in victory and defeat. Whatever gives dignity 
to other warfare was wanting in these personal factious feuds. 
The peculiar bitterness attributed to family quarrels marks also 
the course of civil strife ; and that flow of generous feeling which 
so often succeeds to fierce hostility between strangers, has 
rarely, if ever, been felt by parties of the same state who have 
been once arrayed in arms against each other." 

The earliest heads of Irish septs exercised their authority 
solely through the consent of the collected unit ; and the chief 
thus elected was bound by certain obligations which, if he dis- 
regarded, his authority was withdrawn, or if his followers tired 
of his rule they left him, and his chieftainship ended. When 
there was practically no such thing as private property, there was 
no basis for authority except by the delegation of power willingly 
conceded. When the chiefs were able to consolidate (heir power, 
the liberties of the members of the tribe diminished in proportion 
to this consolidation, for the chief was no longer bound by obli- 


gations. Then, for mutual protection, the chiefs themselves united 
and elected one of their number head chief, or first amongst the 
chiefs, but not as an absolute ruler, nor even possessed of so much 
power over the whole as each chief exercised over his own tribe. 

Even such an enthusiastic believer in the ancient glories of 
Erin ;is Standish O'Grady seems to coincide in this opinion. He 
suys : — " Like every country upon which imperial Borne did not 
leave the impress of her genius, Ireland in these ethnic times 
attained only a partial unity. The Chief King, indeed, presided 
at Tara, and enjoyed the reputation and emoluments flowing to 
him on that account, but, upon the whole, no Irish king exercised 
more than a local sovereignty ; they were all rci/uli, petty kings, 
and their direct authority was small." 

The late Professor T. H. Huxley drew attention to the pub- 
lished collection of the Hrehon laws of ancient Ireland, ar.d how 
the original communal land ownership of the sept became modi- 
fied. The chief, at first, received his share of land as an 
ordinary member of the tribe as well as an extra portion of 
pasture as a payment for his services. An increase of his power 
was the natural result of his being able to have more cattle than 
others of his sept. Then " he became a lender of cattle at a high 
rate of interest to his more needy sept-fellows, who, when they 
borrowed, became bound to do him service in other ways, and 

lost status by falling into the position of his debtors 

Again, the status of the original commoners of the sept was 
steadily altered for the worse by the privilege which the chief 
possessed, and of which lie freely availed himself, of settling on 
the waste lands of the commune such broken vagabonds of other 
tribes as sought his patronage and protection, and who became 
absolutel) dependent on him. Thus, without war, and without 
any necessity for force or fraud (though, doubtless, there was an 
adventitious abundance of both), the communal system was 
bound to go to pieces, and to be replaced by individual owner- 
ship, in consequence of the operation of purely industrial causes. 
That is to say, in consequence of the many commercial advan- 
tages of individual ownership over communal ownership, which 
became more and more marked exactly in proportion as territory 
became more fully occupied, security of possession increased, and 
the chances of the success of individual enterprise and skill as 
against routine, in an industrial occupation, became greater and 




Difficulty of fixing the point where real Irish History commences — Early 
Narratives a mixture of truth, exaggeration, allegory, and downright fic- 
tion — Tighernach, the most reliable Irish scribe — Evidence of the steady 
growth of a healthy Current of Thought now very apparent. — No state- 
ment should be advanced merely on the authority of Irish JISS. — Should 
be corroborated by Archaeological Research — Ethnology and Philology un- 
certain guides in exploring the past — Archceology reliable — The present 
school of Archaeology very practical — The Spade a conclusive solver of 
Problems — Phantom Lands — Phantom Cities— Phantom Ships — Phantom 
Bees— Ireland as known to the Ancients — References in Greek and Roman 
"Writers — Ptolemy's description of the Country — Its Coasts, Rivers, Terri- 
tories, Tribes, Cities — Agricola's alleged Conquest of the Kingdom — Prob- 
able influx of Roman Traders from Britain— Truces of Roman Culture — 

Roman Medicine Stamps Roman Relics, Ornaments, and Coins —Roman 

f loins buried with the Dead — Roman Relics few in number — Of an unim- 
portant character — The result of Traffic, or forgotten Deposits of Irish 
Freebooters — Romans made no Settlements in Ireland— The few local 
Roman Names of Ecclesiastical Origin. 

This and the following Chapter must he prefaced by an apology 
for traversing the same ground as has already been attempted by 
the author in Vinjun Ireland, so thut some repetition must be 
excused, for when treating of the Faiths professed by the inhabi- 
tants of Erin, to omit a description of their religious ideas, of 
the effects of the Koman Conquest of Britain, of the introduction 
of Christianity and of the advent of St. Patrick, would be like 
placing the play of Hamlet on the stage and omitting the part of 
the unlucky Prince of Denmark. In the subject here under ex- 
amination ; it is impossible that any writer can rely only on his 
own researches and resources. If he appropriates the thoughts 
of his predecessors and contemporaries he is accused of being a 
plagiarist, yet if lie be a good adapter he treats each author as the 
bee treats the dower, steals sweets from it without injuring it, 
and essays to improve and transform them into more appetising 
food. It litis been sought to make the text readable, but at the 


same time in no sense perfunctory, so that if another writer 
follows on, in the same track, he may be able to devote himself to 
a complete analysis of the subject, and may find this attempt of 
use to him in his literary labours ; for a good antiquary should 
not only chronicle what other writers have often forgotten, but he 
should also ignore many things on which the superficial observer 
reposes a misplaced confidence. 

According to Eobert Atkinson, ll.d., amongst the many diffi- 
culties which beset the path of the Irish historian " not the least 
is that of fixing upon any point where real information begins. 
The narrative, such as it is, is carried on with so plausible an 
evenness of apparently circumstantial detail of name and place, 
that the render is in danger of being hurried up the stream of time 
to a period long before the Homerian epoch. In these shaking 
bogs of bardic history, where may we set firm foot?" 

Tighernach, pronounced Teernah, the most reliable of early 
Irish scribes, died, it is stated, about a.d. 10SH, and if he be 
accepted as an authority, Irish History might be considered to 
open about two centuries before Christ; his words, "omnia 
monumenta Scotorum usque C'imbeath incerta erant," must, as 
0'Donovan remarks, inspire a feeling of confidence in the writer; 
but while his details of foreign history, relating to remarkable 
events at and preceding the Christian Era, are ample, his enu- 
meration of Irish events down to the third and fourth century 
is exceedingly meagre. He only mentions a few kings whose 
reigns are, by later scribes, filled with fabulous performances ; he 
barely notices the fact of the great hero Cuchullin's (Coolin's) 
existence, and gives but a passing notice to " the Cattle Prey of 
Cooley." " The poor honest man was evidently troubled with a 
conscience rather above his business," remarks John 11. Dickson, 
" and he felt that he must really draw the line somewhere, ... 
yet this limit did not long confine the less scrupulous annalists 
who followed him. They boldly undertook to carry back Irish 
history to the arrival of ' Miledh,' said to have sailed for Spain, 
ria Seythia and Egypt, some thousand years earlier still ; and to 
give names and dates to all the kings of Ireland during the inter- 
vening time, filling in the pictures of most of them with details 
of unnatural villainy, too gross for the latitude of Dahoniy, and 
yet all the while implying that their country had enjoyed a happy, 
and heroic past. . . . The compilers of these various annals were, 
no doubt, most of them, honest and painstaking men who would not 
willingly have falsified facts within their own knowledge; but they 
were too ambitious, they attempted the impossible, and when their 
own necessarily limited knowledge failed them, they fell back on 
a fund of credulity that was apparently inexhaustible. To realize 
how great was the credulity, let anyone read for himself the 


earlier portions of the Annals of the Fuiir Masters (the latest and 
most authoritative of them all), whose office it should have been 
■ to purge the works of previous writers of erudeness and inac- 
curacy, and yet we find them gravely repeating as facts the most 
childish observations " ; and all this, be it observed, so lately as 
the commencement of the seventeenth century. 

According to Tighernach (Teernah) the starting point of Irish 
history was the erection of the Palace of Emania, and a wild 
legend states its origin to be as follows : — Three kings who had 
been fighting amongst themselves finally agreed to reign for 
seven years, each in succession. They had each enjoyed the 
sovereignty for one of these periods, when the first king died, and 
his daughter claimed the right to reign when her father's term 
of sovereignty came round ; she was opposed, but vanquished all 
opposition. Her subjects suggested that she should put her 
prisoners to death ; this she refused to do, but condemned them 
to slavery^ and employed them in building a huge rath or fortress, 
and " she marked for them the dun with her brooch of gold from 
her neck," so that the palace was called Emnuin, from eo, a 
brooch, and muin, the neck. 

The early history of Ireland, whether given by ancient or 
modern writers, is a strange mixture of truth, exaggeration, alle- 
gory, and downright fiction ; however, the fact of incredible ex- 
ploits being ascribed to dim historic personages is not sufficient 
ground for denying the existence of those individuals. In the 
early history of almost every country, the appearance of mythical 
beings is reported, and formerly it was usual to deny that these 
persons had ever existed, but present-day historians rather 
incline to the opinion that they may have been real individuals, 
remarkable for some great quality, or for heroic deeds, around 
whom tradition gradually wove an accumulation of supernatural 
glory. The statements presented by many writers as true history 
are, as is remarked by O'Donovan, " after all no more than their 
own inferences, drawn, in many instances, from the half his- 
torical, half fabulous works of the ancients. In the "Middle Ages 
no story was acceptable to the taste of the day without the 
assistance of some marvellous or miraculous incidents which, 
in those all-believing times, formed the life and soul of every 

Early Greek writers possessed the gift of throwing a veil of 
graceful fiction over stern reality ; on the other hand, the his- 
torians of Ireland presented as sober facts, the wildest and most 
extravagant fictions, and as nature imperceptibly, but, none the 
less surely, planes and rounds off the rocks, covering them with 
ever increasing masses of verdure, so are actual facts of the elder 
days of Erin, planed, rounded, and covered by the accretions of 


successive generations of so-called historians, until they are car- 
peted with a luxuriant crop of beautiful, but comparatively 
valueless legends. These legends, however, while without value 
as history, are of the very highest value as guides to popular 
thought at the time of their composition, and in some instances 
may contain a germ of fact which it requires the most delicate 
literary acumen of the historian to discern. 

There is a strange kind of excitement in endeavouring to 
unravel a complicated problem ; and certainly ample room is 
afforded to a student desirous of analysing and investigating the 
so-called history and description of ancient Erin, which have 
been handed down to us and repeated by writer after writer. 
The mythical stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth, ami other scribes 
of that school, relative to the colonization and history of England, 
have long been consigned to the literary waste-paper basket; 
and why should the extravagant legends related of Ireland be 
treated with more leniency ? To transmit, by oral tradition, 
a chain of events, extending back, in an unbroken order to the 
Creation, would be an impossibility ; we possess also good 
authority for not giving " heed to fables and endless genealogies," 
or to "profane and old wives' fables." Writers of the olden 
school usually commenced their histories with fables, the length 
and extravagance of which was in proportion to their estimate 
of the importance of the theme ; and nothing has tended so much 
to bring discredit on the proper study of Irish history and Irish 
antiquities as this exaggeration. In this characteristic Irish 
writers do not, by any means, occupy a unique position, for the 
early historians of all nations appear to have possessed an innate 
tendency to magnify the antiquity of the origin of the race whose 
deeds they recorded. The Arcadians alleged that they existed 
before the creation of the moon, and, according to Ovid, the 
inhabitants of Attica, not to be outdone, boasted that they were 
a nation before the sun shone : — 

" Ante Jovem gcnilum terms habuisse feruntur 
Arcades, et lunii gens prior ilia i'uit." 

Nations pride themselves on their antiquity, individuals on 
their ancestry; but as antiquity, or remote ancestry, is in itself 
nothing, that in which is their pride is in reality their humilia- 
tion ; for " if an individual is worthy of his ancestors, why extol 
those with whom he is on a level ? And if he is unworthy of 
them, to laud them is to libel himself. And nations also, when 
they boast of their antiquity, only tell us, in other words, that 
they are standing on the ruins of so many generations. But if 
their view of things is limited and their prospect of the sciences 
narrow and confined, if other nations, who stand upon no such 


eminence, see farther than they do, is not the very antiquity of 
which they boast a proof that their forefathers were not giants 
in knowledge ; or, if they were, that their children have de- 

" From yon blue heavens above us bent, 
The Gardener Adam and his wife 

Smile at the claims of long descent. 
Howe'er it be it seems to me, 
"J'is only noble to be good." 

Beranger, towards the close of the last century, wrote on 
this subject of historical exaggeration ; and one would almost 
imagine that the cautious old artist-antiquary had been inditing 
a prospectus for the origination of an Archaeological Society 
when he states, that " no traces remain of the grandeur of the 
ancient Irish, which we are pressed to believe without proofs, 
except some manuscripts, which very few can read, and out of 
which the Irish historian picks what suits him, and hides what 
is fabulous and absurd." Even, now-a-days, the stories trans- 
lated from the Irish, for popular reading, are eclectically selected, 
and many portions of the text are suppressed. 

No statement should be advanced on the mere authority of 
native Irish annals and manuscripts, unless corroborated by 
outside and disinterested evidence, such as is afforded by classic 
or foreign writers, or archaeological and material evidences of 
sepulchral remains, dwellings, implements, ornaments, and other 
traces left by the primitive and early inhabitants of the land. 

If material objects be accepted as proofs of the pagan ideas 
and customs of the aborigines, surely the evidence of still exist- 
ing superstitious observances of the peasantry, which can be 
traced to a pre-Christian source, ought to be received with, at 
least, the same authority ; and we should look upon all these 
subjects as mere links in one great chain which binds together 
many separate periods of semi-culture. The past can always be 
found in the present ; for it is easy to bring some custom or 
superstition of the present into connexion with the past, and to 
use it to bring out distinctly what was believed in and acted upon 
in by-gone centuries. 

It is to be hoped that research into the past, on these lines, 
may contribute to the re-construction of early history, a work 
which can only be finally accomplished by many united efforts ; 
for our discoveries are founded on those of our predecessors, and 
we merely utilize the ascending steps formed by an innumerable 
army of fellow-workers. We stand on a better basis than those 
that went before. It is certain that those who follow after will 
be better placed than ourselves; for even " a dwarf on a giant's 
shoulders sees further of the two." Thus the science of 


archaeology is gradually evolving out of apparent chaos ; it has 
become vertebrate, and possesses a solid framework which can be 
gradually clothed correctly with details. Evidence of this steady 
growth of healthy archaeological thought is very apparent ; yet 
we have made but little progress in higher and scientific archae- 
ology, and the ancient antiquities of Ireland still remain in an 
unclassified condition. For a lengthened period archaeology was 
not recognised as a science, although it treats of the arts, 
manners, customs, and entire past of primitive man, whilst, 
now-a-days, it must be acknowledged as an able assistant to 
ethnology and philology. It is evident that philology, as a 
guide, must give place to, or rest its evidence on, the material 
proofs produced by archaeology or ethnology. Indeed, a student 
seeking to discover the origin of a people, through analysis of the 
spoken language, may be led to conclusions of the most erroneous 
description. For instance, in Ireland, a stranger ignorant of its 
early history, and finding the vast majority of the population 
speaking English, might come to the conclusion that they were 
of English descent. A good example occurred not long ago, 
when an English-speaking writer lamented that he could not 
give vent to his feelings in the Gaelic tongue, of which he was 
quite ignorant — English being, in his opinion, totally inadequate 
to express his indignation at being called an Anglo-Saxon. 
And, from his point of view, he was perfectly right ; for he was 
no more an Anglo-Saxon, because he spoke English only, than 
he would have been a horse had he heen born in a stable. 

Grant Allen illustrates, with the following personal anecdote, 
the facility with which the ethnological geiieraliser may be pre- 
cipitated into unexpected pitfalls: — "It happened to me once, 
many years since, to be taking a class in logic in a West Indian 
college. The author of our text-book had just learnedly explained 
to us that personal names had no real connotation. ' Neverthe- 
less,' he went on, ' they may sometimes enable us to draw certain 
true inferences. For example, if we meet a man of the name of 
John Smith, we shall at least be justified in concluding that he 
is a Teuton.' Now, as it happened, that class contained a John 
Smith ; and as I read those words aloud, he looked up in my 
face with the expressive smile of no Teutonic forefathers ; for 
thh John Smith was a pure-blooded negro." 

It is difficult to define limits to this species of investigation ; 
for ethnologists are of opinion that even the so-called Irish race 
is really a compound one, containing in addition to the true 
Celtic or Aryan element at least two others that are non-Aryan, 
probably a * Mongolian or Finnish element and an Iberian 
element. " Very little attempt," remarks William Larminie, 
"has hitherto been made to settle in what parts of the country 


these elements respectively preponderate ; but that there must 
be some preponderance of different races in different localities is 
shown clearly enough by the varying physical types. It is 
beyond question that Donegal differs from Connaught, and that 
both differ from Munster ; and when we find that, in spite of a 
co-existence of at least two thousand years in the same island, 
and the possession of a common language, different districts 
have a different folklore, is it extravagant to surmise that these 
different bodies are due to varying racial deposits ?" The creeds 
of their faith, namely, the myths, legends, and superstitions of a 
people, are far truer guides to their origin than is their spoken 
dialect. The tongue of the aborigines is usually either extin- 
guished or forced on one side by the stronger and dominant race, 
but the bent of mind of the subjected people becomes more or 
less stereotyped, and forms the distinguishing feature of their 

The inhabitants of Cornwall, though largely of Celtic blood, 
speak English ; the Romans imposed their language upon the 
conquered races inhabiting France and Spain. The late Pro- 
fessor Huxley, writing on this subject, remarked that: — " At the 
present day the physical characters of the people of Belgic Gaul 
remain distinct from those of the people of Aquitaine, notwith- 
standing the immense changes which have taken place since 
Ctesar's time ; but Belga3, Celts, and Aquitani (all but a mere 
fraction of the last two, represented by the Basques and the 
Bretons) are fused into one nationality, ' le peuple Francais.' But 
they have adopted the language of one set of invaders and the 
name of another ; tbeir original names and languages having 
almost disappeared. Suppose that the French language remained 
as the sole evidence of the existence of the population of Gaul, 
would the keenest philologer arrive at any other conclusion 
than that this population was essentially and fundamentally a 
' Latin ' race which had some communication with Celts and 
Teutons ? Would he so much as suspect the former existence of 
the Aquitani ? ' ' 

Thus language is no absolute or even approximate test of 
race; it is merely evidence of a contact having taken place 
between races. Language may explain much ; it cannot explain 
everything, and may, as we have seen, in fact, in some instances, 
prove actually detrimental to research. Although the English 
language is mainly of Saxon origin, yet it is by no means so certain 
that the blood of Englishmen — taken as a whole nation — is as 
fully Saxon as their tongue ; the Celtic strain, though to a great 
extent absent from our tongue, exists no doubt to a large extent 
iu the blood. Anglo-Celtic is probably a truer description of 
British nationality than Anglo-Saxon; for all are not Celtic 


that speak with a brogue, and all are not Saxon that are guile- 
less of the letter h. On the other hand there is more Saxon and 
Noise blood flowing in the veins of Irishmen than is generally 
supposed. As already noticed, Ireland at the very earliest period 
contained a dark and a fair race, which there is every reason to 
believe are identical with the dark and the fair races of Britain. 
When the Irish first became known to history they spoke a 
Gaelic dialect; and though for many centuries Scandinavians 
made continual incursions upon and settlements among them, 
the Teutonic languages took no more root among the Irish than 
they did among the French. " How much Scandinavian blood 
was introduced there is no evidence to show. But, after the 
conquest of Ireland by Henry II., the English people, consisting 
in part of the descendants of Cymric speakers, and in part of the 
descendants of Teutonic speakers, made good their footing in the 
eastern half of the island, as the Saxons and Danes made good 
theirs in England ; and they did their best to complete the 
parallel by attempting the extirpation of the Gaelic-speaking 
Irish, and they succeeded to a considerable extent. A large 
part of eastern Ireland is now peopled by men who are substan- 
tially English by descent, and the English language has spread 
over the land far beyond the limits of English blood. . . . What, 
then, is the value of the ethnological difference between the 
Englishman of the western half of England and the Irishman of 
the eastern half of Ireland ? For what reason does the one 
deserve the name of ' Celt ' and not the other ? And, further, if 
we turn to the inhabitants of the western half of Ireland, why 
should the term ' Celts ' be applied to them more than to the 
inhabitants of Cornwall'.' And if the name is applicable to the 
one as justly as to the other, why should not intelligence, perse- 
verance, thrift, industry, sobriety, respect for law, he admitted to 
be Celtic virtues '! And why should we not seek for the cause of 
their absence in something else than the idle pretext of 'Celtic 
blood' '? I have been unable to meet with any answers to these 
questions," concludes the late Professor T. II. Huxley. 

There is scarcely any branch of knowledge of the past with 
which arclueolngv may not claim to concern itself; and even 
if the term be taken in its narrower sense, as the study only of 
the history of the outward and material life of man in past ages, 
and especially of the extant works of human ingenuity, yet even 
the historical limits of the subject are only bounded by the first 
appearance of man on the earth. Until a comparatively recent 
period the study of Irish archaeology was in a deplorable state ; 
travellers along" the road to antiquarian knowledge were beguiled 
at everv step from the true track by false guides who, like " Will- 
o'-the-wisp," led them aimlessly about; yet the old school of 


writers, whom it is the custom to sneer at, should be judged, 
like other men in similar circumstances, according to the light of 
their time. Thus while we need pay but little heed to their 
arguments, deductions, and assumption of learning, we must 
acknowledge that we are indebted to them for many most useful 
and explanatory facts that might otherwise have escaped being 
recorded. Of all the writers of the old school, General Vallancey 
is the one most to be admired and the least to be blamed. He 
wrote as he believed, and in all sincerity, as a sympathetic writer 
exclaims : — " Good, worthy, brave, old antiquarian : peace be to 
his ashes. He had an Irish heart, although he chanced to be 
born on the wrong side of St. George's Channel ; and an Irish 
head, too, if the making of a blunder, now and then, be deemed 
a true characteristic of our country ; but antiquarians in England 
can make blunders, too, only their blunders are not blunders, 
they are ' erroneous conclusions.' " 

Almost always, at the birth of a new study, zealous votaries 
undertake much laborious research, which has to be gone over 
afresh as soon as systematized work is commenced. Not only has 
the student proper to undo the futile work that obstructs scientific 
inquiry, but he has, after pulling down the edifice, to attempt a 
reconstruction. The very fact of great errors having been com- 
mitted should make us proceed with the more caution, especially 
in forming our own judgment. The unweighed theories of the 
old school of archaeologists hardly require refutation, nevertheless 
the emotional basis on which they rested must be demolished 
with a firm but, it must be admitted, reluctant hand ; and 
though the path be strewn, like that of the iconoclasts of old, 
with shattered fragments of broken idols, the remains will be 
found not worth the trouble of an attempted restoration. A new 
structure must be erected ; for an attempt to utilise too much of 
the old material would but mar the archaeological harmony of 
the rising edifice. 

Dr. Petrie's essay on the origin of Irish Bound Towers, a 
model for archaeological writers, created a literary revolution, yet, 
as is the case with too many other Irish writers, the amount of 
published matter which he has left represents most inadequately 
his great knowledge of archaeology. To the overthrow of 
romantic theories and fanciful speculations he marshalled solid 
arguments and a bristling array of facts, and conclusively proved 
that the Round Towers of Ireland, instead of being Pagan temples 
of the remotest antiquity, were erected by Christian ecclesiastics, 
in comparatively modern times, for various purposes, but certainly 
for keeps, or places of protection, against sudden attacks from 
predatory foes. 

The present school of archeology is before all things praeti- 


cal, and is pre-eminently that of the spade. The spade is a 
great solver of problems and destroyer of fantastical theories ; it 
must ultimately unfold, in its entirety, primitive man's ideas 
regarding the dead, of the future state, of burial customs, cere- 
monies, and the institutions to which they gave rise. It is 
precisely at this early stage that the spade has much to tell ; for 
where historical and legendary traditions are absent, the ultimate 
appeal must be to it. The trend of all modern science is to essay 
to recover from caves, middens, and other such like sites, precise 
acquaintance with the manners and methods of life of the men 
of long past ages. Need it be stated that, as far as it has gone, 
investigation on every side has proved fruitful. We have, to 
some extent, solved the secret of the Eld. The knowledge that 
to-day we possess, and at which we have long ceased to wonder, 
would, a few years ago, have been deemed a mere dream ; but 
there are many more secrets of the past belonging to our land 
yet unravelled because traces of them are very faint, and it is 
to the examination of these that we should direct our attention. 

The mass of literature which has appeared on the subject of 
the name and meaning of the ancient designation of Ireland 
would fill a goodly sized volume : in some of the earliest manu- 
scripts the name is written Eriu. One legend, which on the 
face of it appears to bear the impress of truthfulness, alleges 
that, at some period either prior to or after the Deluge, Ireland 
was discovered by fishermen who had been blown out to sea in 
their skiff ; this was at least a natural and not improbable manner 
of discovering a new island. 

Whether or not Ireland was known to the Phoenicians is a 
subject of controversy amongst antiquarians. Even had these 
energetic traders been acquainted with the island, it is more than 
probable that they would have tried to conceal their knowledge, 
as they would have been unwilling to allow other maritime 
nations to discover the sources from which they drew their riches. 
We have the well-known and hackneyed story of the wily Pho 1 - 
nician shipmaster who, observing that, on his voyage to Britain, 
he was followed by a Roman galley which watched his course, 
deliberately ran his vessel on a shoal, on which his pursuer also 
struck ; the Phoenician, either a better or more fortunate seaman, 
floated off his craft, but the Roman galley went to pieces. 

The earliest writers of Greece and Rome who are supposed 
to refer to Ireland, have spoken of it in a manner so vague, that 
very little can be learned from their words ; even if Ireland may 
be identified as Thule, as the "sacred Island," or the poetic 
" Island of the Blest," in which the golden age of innocence and 
purity still continued to flourish, after all the rest of the world 
had become corrupt : but the following lines from Claudian are 


conclusive as to the designation of Thule, at any rate in the poet's 
time— not being applicable to Ireland:—" The Orkneys dripped 
(with blood) when the Saxons were put to flight _; Thule grew 
warm with the gore of the Picts ; icy Ireland bewailed the heaps 
of (slain) Scoti."* 

Eufus Festus Avienus, a poetical writer of the fourth cen- 
tury, a.d., in his Be Oris Maritim., professes to have derived his 
information from a Carthaginian source ; and he is, it is alleged, 
the only ancient author as yet known, who specially applied the 
epithet of " The Sacred Island " to Ireland. His account is 
curious ; he states that at a distance of two days' sail from the 
(Estrumnides (the Cassite rides of the Greeks, supposed to be the 
present Scilly Islands) lay an extensive land called " The Sacred 
Island," inhabited by the nation of the Hibernians. The text 
may be thus translated : — 

" This isle is sacred narn'd, by all the ancients, 
From times remotest in the womb of Chronos. 
This isle, which rises o'er the wares of ocean, 
Is covered with a sod of rich luxuriance. 
And peopled, far and wide, by the Hiberni."t 

" It would be a very melancholy consideration," remarks 
O'Donovan, " if this sacred island of the Hesperides, the 
abode of the Pious, and the Elysian Fields of the Blest, should 
turn out, when the reality became known, to have been the abode 
of incestuous cannibals." 

Although we may be inclined to smile at the small amount 
of geographical knowledge possessed by the ancients, yet they 
were, perhaps, on the whole, better informed than were the 
ordinary run of Irish peasantry at the close of the last, and the 
commencement of the present century. O'Donovan relates how 
his uncle was unable to make his listeners comprehend the 
theories respecting the laws of motion, attraction, and gravita- 
tion, or understand that it was the earth that moved, and that 
the sun was comparatively stationary. The generality of man- 
kind, for a long time, supposed that the earth was a flat plain, 
surrounded by the sea, and that the sky was a kind of roof from 
which heavenly bodies were suspended as lamps. Tyler, in his 

Maduenmt Saxone f uso 
Oroades, incaluit Pictorum sanguine Thule, 
Scotorum cuniulos flevit R'laeialis Ierne." 

Ast hinc iluobus in Sacrain, sic Insulam 
Dixere prisei, solibus cursus rati est. 
Hajo inter undas multum cespitem jacit, 
Eamque late gens Hibernorum colit." 


Kurlij Hktory of Mnnkiwl, states that the Polynesians thought, 
like so many other peoples ancient and modern, that the sky 
descended at the horizon and enclosed the earth. They called 
foreigners " heaven -bursters," as having broken in from another 
and outside world. The sky is to most savages merely the earth 
on high. " There are holes or windows through the roof, or fir- 
mament, where the rain comes through, and if you climb high 
enough you can get through and visit the dwellers above, who look, 
and talk, and live very much in the same way as the people upon 
earth. As above the flat earth, so below it, there are regions 
inhabited by men, or man-like creatures, who sometimes come up 
to the surface and sometimes are visited by the inhabitants of the 
upper earth. We live as it were upon the ground floor of a 
great house, with upper stories rising one over another above us, 
and cellars down below." 

The gravest objection made by the Irish peasantry to the 
" new learning " of the eighteenth century was the late date of its 
discovery, and the improbability that the Almighty would have 
permitted such great truths to remain so long unrevealed to man- 
kind. The peasantry asserted that the new science was but the 
dream of visionary and irreligious madmen ; they stoutly main- 
tained that the earth was not a globe, but was flat, and in all 
probability extended to a distance simply immeasurable. With 
regard to Commodore Anson's discoveries,* the peasantry argued 
that he did not sail round the earth, but only up and down the 
various oceans, and returned to England after having described a 
circle, not in girth round the earth — for that was impossible — 
but on its flat surface, in the same way that an animal might 
walk round the flat surface of a field, but cannot pass under it. 
This they contended was the way Commodore Anson sailed round 
the earth. They also firmly believed that, under ground, there 
were oceans of fresh water extending in various directions as the 
seas do on the surface, that the upper crust of the earth was of 
various degrees of thickness, but that it was very thin in some 
places, and has been frequently broken through by the action of 
the water, as also by the spells of sorcerers ; that there are oceans 
of fresh water in the sky which would assuredly inundate the 
earth were they not kept suspended by God, who occasionally per- 
mits them to descend in the form of rain to fertilize the earth, 
and that (rod deigns to pour it down gently or violently, or with- 
holds it altogether for a season, according to man's deserts. 

* It is surprising how, occasionally, tin- span of two lives bridges an almost 
incredible space. A ladv of the county Sligo. who died in the year 1897, was 
acquainted with one of the officers who sailed with Captain Cook in his voyage 
of discovei-v, 17fi8-l771. 


The legend of an island or of a continent submerged by one 
of these great catastrophes is still preserved in the folk lore of 
almost every European nation ; for legends of the Eld and modern 
scientific speculation alike abound in suggestions regarding great 
islands and even continents once teeming with terrestrial life, but 
now covered with ocean billows. It has been remarked that 
whereas the Pacific Ocean is of great geological antiquity, it is 
now one of the most unquestioned facts of the world's history, that 
large parts of the Atlantic are geologically quite modern. " What 
lands may have been thickly populated, for untold ages, and 
subsequently have disappeared and left no sign above the waters 
it is of course impossible for us to say ; but unless we are to 
make the wholly unjustifiable assumption that no dry land rose 
elsewhere when our present dry land sank, there must be half-a- 
dozen Atalantises beneath the waves of the various oceans of the 
world," observes Professor Huxley. Some hold the belief that 
this submerged continent was the cradle of the human race. 
That there some tribe allied to but not identical with the present 
anthropoid species of apes, gradually developed into men — at first 
but a step removed from the brutes : then slowly advancing in 
the arts which characterize man. " Ancient traditions, when 
tested by the severe processes of modern investigation, commonly 
enough fade away into mere dreams; but it is singular how 
often the dream turns out to have been a half-waking one, pre- 
saging a reality. Ovid foreshadowed the discoveries of the 
geologist ; the Atalantis was an imagination, but Columbus 
found a Western World." 

The primitive inhabitants of the Canary Islands are said to be 
the remnant 'of the ancient race who peopled the drowned land 
of Atalantis. It was not until the fifteenth century that these 
isolated and forgotten remnants of a supposed lost continent were 
rediscovered. Their inhabitants were then living in a Stone Age ; 
they had no implements but hatchets made of obsidian, and 
wooden darts with the points hardened in the fire. 

O'Flaherty states that the phantom island of Hy-Brasil — 
marked on many old charts near the west coast of Ireland — was, 
in his time, " often visible." The subject has inspired several 
poets with beautiful fancies which have been woven into pathetic 
ballads. Gerald Griffin describes it thus : — 

" On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell 
A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell ;' 
Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest, 
And they called it lly-Brasil, the isle of the Blest. 
From year unto year on the ocean's blue rim, 
The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim ; 
The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay, 
And it looked like an Eden away, far away ! 


" A peasant, who heard of the wonderful tale, 
In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail ; 
From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west, 
For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasil was West. 
He heard not the voices that called from the shore — 
He heard not the rising wind's menacing roar ; 
Home, kindred, and safety he left on that day, 
And he sped to Hy-Brasil, away, far away ! 

" Mom rose on the deep, and that Shadowy Isle, 
O'er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile ; 
Noon burned on the wan.-, and that shadowy shore 
Seemed lovelily distant and faint as before ; 
Lone evening came down on the wanderer's track, 
And to Ara again he looked timidly back ; 
Oli ! far on the vei-ge of the ocean it lay, 
Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away ! 

" Hash dreamer return ! 0, ye winds of the main, 
Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again. 
Hash fool ! for a vision of fanciful bliss, 
To barter thy calm life of labour and peace. 
The warning of reason was spoken in vain ; 
He never re-visited Ara again ! 
Night fell on the deep amidst tempest and spray, 
And he died on the waters, away, far away ! 

Many attempts were made to discover this fabled island. 
Leslie, of Glaslough, described as a " wise man and a great 
scholar," was so imbued with belief in its real existence that he 
solicited a grant of the isle from Charles I. Edmond Ludlow, 
the celebrated republican, escaped to the Continent in a vessel 
chartered at Limerick, to sail in search of Hy-Brasil ; and so 
firm then was belief in the actual existence of this enchanted 
island, that the captain of the ship was allowed to depart 

A rare work entitled La X<trii/ttti<m V little Oriental V, printed 
at Amsterdam in the year 1609, contains a map on which two 
islands, styled Brasil and Brandon, are marked as actually exist- 
ing off the Irish coast. Fig. 67 is a reproduction of that portion 
of the plate above referred to. Fig. 68 is a chart by the French 
Geographer Boyal made in the year 1634, on which the island of 
Hy Brasil is also distinctly marked. Fig. 69 shows the approxi- 
mate position of the Porcupine and Bockall Banks with regard to 
Ireland. Rockall is still, in part, above the waters, and the 
rocky pinnacle it presents is a great danger to navigation. It is 
probably the last fragment of the island of Brandon, and the 
Porcupine Bank may represent the site of the now phantom land 
of Hy-Brasil. 

On the 2nd March, 1674 (it is well to be very particular as to 
the exact date), a Captain Nesbett discovered, disenchanted, and 



actually landed on Hy-Brasil, which he also partially explored. 
The disenchantment was effected by lighting a fire upon it. 
"Since then," says the writer, "several godly ministers and 
others are gone to visit and discover them" (i.e., the inhabitants), 
but as the author had heard no news of their return, he says he 
awaits with becoming patience further particulars. We are left 
in ignorance as to whether these were ever given, but from a 
silence of upwards of two centuries the probability is, that the 




J das-Maidas 
f Verde 


C.Flnis terra: 


o. gP«&. 

Jl cores Jnfula 
O at ^landricj;' 

Madera, «5> 


i-'iu. (57. 

Chart from La Navigation V hide Oriental, 1609, on which the two Islands of Brasil 
and Brandon are marked. 

disenchantment wrought by the lighting of the fire was but 
temporary; that the "godly ministers and others" have met 
with the fate of Ossian of old, but doubtless when the day of 
their release arrives we shall hear of strange discoveries. The 
pamphlet, purporting to give an account of the discovery of 
Hy-Brasil, obtained a good circulation in London in 1675. 

The existence of a land which would restore the aged to the full 
vigour of youth was of world-wide belief, but all attempts to dis- 
cover this land necessarily ended in disappointment; neverthe- 
less, the strange spirit of adventure thus engendered, laid open to 



view countries which might otherwise have remained for centuries 
unknown. A country of indefinite magnitude, called Brasil, is 
marked on maps made before or about the time of Columbus. It 

is lvpri'si'iiti'd south of another island which, it is thought, repre- 
sents the supposed position of the Scandinavian settlements of 
Yinclaiid; for, although we designnte the American continent 


the ' ' New World," it was apparently known to those ancient rovers 
of the sea. 

O'Flaherty mentions the appearance, in 1161, of "fantastical 
ships" in the harbour of Gal way sailing against the wind ; and 
Hardiman, editor of the above work, remembered having seen a 
well-defined aerial phenomenon of the same kind from a hill 
near Croaghpatrick in Mayo, on a serene evening in the autumn 

Fig. 69. 

Sketch Map, showing the approximate position of the Porcupine and Rockall Banks 
with regard to Ireland. 

of 1798. Hundreds who also witnessed the scene looked upon it 
as supernatural, but soon afterwards it was ascertained that the 
illusion had been produced by the reflection of the fleet of 
Admiral Warren which was then in pursuit of a French squadron 
off the west coast of Ireland. In like manner may not the 
optical illusion noted in the Irish annals as occurring in the year 
1161, in the harbour of Galway, have been produced by the 
reflection of a distant fleet of Northern war-galleys. 


Belief in the existence of Hy-Brasil doubtless gave rise to the 
traditional transatlantic voyage of St. Brendan (spelled Brandion 
on the map, fig. 67), an adventurous ecclesiastic, styled " the 
Navigator," who passed seven years away from Ireland on a 
distant island. St. Brendan has been styled " the Sindbad of 
clerical romance " ; and so firm a hold of men's minds had the 
exploits of this Christian Ulysses at one time acquired, that 
islands, supposed to have been discovered by him, became sub- 
jects of treaty. It is not improbable that, at a later period, his 
adventures stimulated navigators to attempt discoveries across the 
western ocean. St. Brendan sailed about on a huge rock, which 
he finally abandoned on the coast of Donegal. St. Declan's rock 
may still be seen on the strand in Ardmore bay. This " boat" is 
computed to weigh about three tons. It navigated itself, on the sur- 
face of the sea, from Rome, carrying, by way of cargo, nine bells, 
and the curious ship reached land with its load most opportunely, 
just as St. Declan was in dire want of a bell to celebrate Mass. 

There is a curious ms. on medical subjects in the Royal Irish 
Academy, traditionally believed to have been originally obtained 
by a native of Connemara, transported by supernatural means to 
the enchanted isle of Hy-Brasil, where he received full instructions 
with regard to all diseases, their treatment and cure, and was 
presented, on leaving, with the ms. to guide him in his medical 
practice. So late as the year 1753, there is in The Ulster Mis- 
cellany a curious satire entitled "A voyage to O'Brazal, a sub- 
marine island lying off the coast of Ireland." 

O'Flaherty, writing in 1084, states that : " From the isles of 
Aran and the west continent often appears visible that enchanted 
island called O'Brasil, and in Irish Beg-Ara, or the Lesser Aran, 
set down in cards of navigation ; whether it be real and firm land, 
kept hidden by special ordinance of God, as the terrestial para- 
dise, or else some illusion of airy clouds appearing on the surface 
of the sea, or the craft of evil spirits — is more than our judg- 
ments can sound out." 

The Rev. Luke Connolly, writing in 1K16, states that he 
received minute descriptions of extraordinary Fttt/i M«r<iau<i 
which appeared along the sea-coast near the Giant's Causeway, 
from those who saw the beautiful illusions on various summer 
evenings: — " Shadows resembling castles, ruins, and tall spires 
darted rapidly across the surface of the sea, which were instantly 
succeeded by appearances of trees, lengthened into considerable 
height ; these shadows moved to the eastern part of the horizon, 
and at sunset totally disappeared. These phenomena have given 
rise to various romantic stories. A book still extant, printed in 
17-1H, and written by a person who resided near the Giant's 
Causeway, gives a long account of an enchanted island, annually 


seen floating along the county of Antrim coast, which he fanci- 
fully calls the ' Old Brazils.' It is supposed by thepeasants that 
a sod from the Irish terra fir-ma, thrown on this island, would 
give it stability ; but though several fishing boats have gone out, 
at different times, provided with this article, it has hitherto- 
eluded their vigilance." 

Belief in the existence of the island of Hy-Brasil may have 
arisen through these optical illusions, which are not so very 
infrequent as is generally supposed. A correspondent writes — 
" I myself, upwards of half a century ago, saw a wonderful mirage 
resembling that lately described as having been visible off our 
Tireragh coast (county of Sligo) ; and had I been looking on the 
bay for the first time, nothing could have persuaded me but that 
I was gazing at a veritable city — a large handsome one too, trees, 
houses, spires, castellated buildings, &c." The enchanted island 
of Hy-Brasil was again seen off the coast of Sligo (as above 
alluded to) in the year 1.885 ; the vision forebodes — so it is 
alleged — national trouble. 

There is also another consideration with regard to this phe- 
nomenon which has not been sufficiently taken into consideration. 
We cannot see objects below the horizon, but sometimes, owing 
to the peculiar state of the atmosphere, the rays of light are so 
bent that, when they reach the eye, they make distant objects 
visible. For instance, place a coin in a saucer, so as to be hidden 
from observation, pour water into the vessel, and though the 
coin is below the horizon it becomes at once visible. This re- 
flection, usually seen across water, is among sailors known as 
" looming" ; the objects that " loom " are magnified vertically, 
and seem unnaturally near. Snowdon, in Wales, is thus occa- 
sionally seen by pilots in Dublin Bay, though it is over one 
hundred miles distant. 

P. W. Joyce says that " the Gaelic tales abound in allusions 
to a beautiful country situated under the sea — an enchanted land 
sunk at some remote time and still held under spell. In some 
romantic writings it is called Tir-fa-tonn, ' the land beneath the 
wave ' ; and occasionally one or more of the heroes find their way 
to it. . . . The island of Fincara and the beautiful country 
seen beneath the waves by Maildun are remnants of the same 
superstition." This romantic delusion is not confined to Ireland. 
Belief in it is found in the mythology of almost every race ; and 
"although all evidence points in an opposite direction, and 
rather to an evolution from lower to higher conditions every- 
where, the idea that a paradise lies behind us will probably 
remain in the chronic fiction of humanity so long, at least, as 
to the individual bygone troubles appear small comparatively 
when dwarfed by distance in the retrospect, and while the 


memory of age continues to dwell regretfully on long vanished 
scenes that may have owed their brightness chiefly to the 
summer atmosphere of youth." 

The concord of classic and Irish tradition is remarkable ; in 
both cases, somewhere far away in the western ocean, there was 
a country which passed under various names ; and that this was 
one of the elysiums of the primitive Irish, as well as of classic 
writers, is very clear. It appears to have corresponded to the 
" Land of the Saints " of early Irish Christianity, where the 
souls of the blessed await the Day of Judgment, even as the 
"Land of the Living" was to the Pagan Irish their happy 
" Spirit Home." The general traditions of pagan peoples place 
the point of departure from this world, and entrance to the next, 
always to the west, and the journey lay westward. For instance, 
in the mythological legend of the adventures of Condla Ruad 
the hero embarks in a currach made of pearl, and glides away on 
the boundless ocean, watched by his friends with straining and 
streaming eyes until the skiff disappears in the glow of the great 
" white sun," on its voyage westward to the " Island of the 
Blessed," to 

" A land of youth, a land of rest, 
A land from sorrow free ; 
It lies far off in the golden West, 
On the verge of the azure sea." 

The poet Longfellow makes even his Indian hero, Hiawatha, 
take his departure westward, into the fiery sunset — 

" To the island of the Messed, 
To the kingdom of I'onemuh, 
To the land of the Hcieafter." 

There are also numerous legends of the overwhelming, not of 
continents and islands alone, but also of particular towns and 
cities by the sudden rising of the waters. 

The sites of many lacustrine settlements, or villages built in 
the water, called in Irish crannogs, are often designated by the 
peasantry "drowned islands"; for hutetlui, signifying "drowned," 
is applied, by the country people to places or objects submerged 
in water. When the Irish Annalists recount how the sacred 
hooks of the Christian Irish were destroyed by the invading 
Danes, who threw them into the water, they use the expression 
" the books were drowned," thus showing that the application of 
the term is not modern. Shakespeare, in The Tempest and also in 
AlVs Well tlmt F.iiih Well, also applies the epithet "drown" to 
inanimate objects : — 

. . . " I teener than ever plummet sound 
I '11 drew u niv hool;." 


And again — 

..." To drown my clothing, and say I was stripped." 

If till lately people, otherwise well informed, were totally 
ignorant on the subject of these " drowned" dwellings, it is the 
less surprising that the simple Irish fisherman, gliding in his skiff 
over the placid surface of the waters, and peering into their clear 
depths, should have failed to recognize that the mouldering piles 
projecting from the oozy bottom were traces of the love of secur- 
ity of his predecessors in the country ; and that in the mud of 
the ever-accumulating lacustrine deposit are preserved material 
evidences of a state of primitive society long since passed away : 
indeed, few discoveries are more interesting than the spectacle of 
the ghosts of this long-forgotten population rising from the waters 
of oblivion. 

This tradition of " drowned " islands is clearly traceable to 
lingering remembrances of these lacustrine habitations ; for 
Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in the twelfth century, described 
the tradition that then prevailed in the North of Ireland, of 
waters having overwhelmed the plain now occupied by Lough 
Neagh — a locality thickly studded with these " drowned " 
remains ; and the legend has been immortalised by Moore, who 
thus alludes to it : — 

" On Lough Neagh's banks as the fisherman stray?, 
When the clear cold eve 'a declining, 
He sees the round towers of other days 
In the waves beneath him shining." 

It would appear as if shadowy tradition prevails also in the 
East ; at any rate the same poet makes the Peri say : — 

" I know where the Isles of Perfume are. 
Many a fathom down in the sea. 
To the south of sun-bright Araby." 

There is a tradition that the original town of Sligo, in the 
west of Ireland, stood on a plain now overspread by the waters 
of Lough Gill, and that the islets studding the bosom of the lake 
are the crests of verdant knolls which formerly adorned its green 
expanse. There are certainly traces of lacustrine settlements 
still plainly to be observed above water ; but as proof of the 
alleged submergence of the ancient town, the remains of houses 
and buildings are said to be visible at the bottom of the lake on 
a sunshiny day. An English tourist asked a Sligo boatman, 
who had rowed him from the town to the lake, if he had ever 
seen " the round towers of other days," or any buildings of past 


ages, gleaming under the waters. " In troth, I have," was the 
ready answer ; " and shure, on a still summer's day, won't you 
see the smoke from the chimneys rising straight up in the air 
from the surface of the lake." 

Within the town of Sligo, in the townland of Knocknaganny, 
is the celebrated well of Tobernashelmida, or the Snail's Well. 
Its name is derived from an enchanted or metamorphosed being, 
supposed to be seen every seventh year emerging from its waters 
in the form of a huge snail, and which possesses the power of 
effecting, at some future period which, it is to be hoped, may 
always remain in futurity, an overflowing of the well, and a 
second submergence of the metropolis of the west of Ireland. 

A curious tradition is connected with a rude stone monument 
in Mayo, to the effect that should the giant's grave be ever dug 
into, the wild mountain side would at once be transformed 
into a fertile plain ; that the gate of a beautiful city, which lies 
enchanted at the bottom of a little lake close by, could then be 
opened by a key buried with the warrior in the tomb, and that a 
great golden treasure would be at the disposal of the discoverer. 

The tradition of towns buried beneath the waters is not 
merely confined to the lakes of Ireland ; there is the beautiful 
fable of the City of Gold, hid beneath the angry ocean, some- 
times seen, but ever in different localities : — 

" Years onward have swept, 

Ay ! long ages have rolleil — 
Since the billows first slept 
O'er the City of Gold! 

" 'Neath its eddy of white 

"When' the green "wave is swelling. 
In their halls of delight, 

Are the fairy tribes dwelling. 

" And but seldom the eye 
Of a mortal can scan, 
Where those palaces high 
Rise unaided by man. 

• ' Yet at times the waves sever, 
And then yon may view 
The yellow walls ever, 

'Neath the ocean's deep blue." 

A similar legend lingers amongst the peasantry on both banks 
of the estuary of the River Shannon. They believe that a 
beautiful city lies buried beneath the waters, the flow of the 
current being ruffled and disturbed by its sunken towers, spires, 
and turrets. Once in seven years the glittering pile, they tell 



us, is to be seen gleaming beneath the translucent wave, but it 
is considered a sure omen of approaching death to the beholder 
of the wonderful spectacle. 

M. Chantry was induced to explore Lake Paladru in Isere, 
from hearing the recital of a local tradition that the ruins of an 
ancient city, destroyed by Divine vengeance, were still to be seen 
at the bottom of the lake. Researches led to the discovery of a 
lacustrine settlement occupying the spot indicated by the legend. 
In the Bay of Douarninez, near the Pointe de Raz, on the 
Brittany coast, the fisherman still believes he sees, under the 
green waves, "the ruined streets and monuments of the Breton 
Sodom," or the mythical City of Is. 

Fig. 70. 

Present appearance presented by Lough Eyes and its 
artificial islets. After a drawing byAV. F. Wakeman. 

Similar legends oi submerged towns are prevalent in the"" 
south of Scotland, on the littoral facing the Irish coast ; while 
amongst other points of coincidence between Scotch and Irish 
lake settlements may be noticed a tradition connected with some 
of them, and common to both countries, which seems to have 
had its origin in the submergence of the settlements by the 
continual rising of the water level of the lakes, or the sinking of 
the littoral. The same idea is held by the natives of Central 
India, who imagine that the sound of fairy music is heard, and 
panoramic views of buried cities may, from the surrounding hill 
tops, be seen beneath the waters of their lakes. John Balak, 
who had taken up his residence on the river Osella, wrote to 
Gerard Mercator, the famous cosmographer, an account of the 
river on which was " the great lake of Kittay, on the shores of 



which have been heard sweet harmony of bells, and that stately 
and large buildings had been seen therein." 

The cluster of artificial islands and shoals in Lough Eyes, 
near Lisbellaw, county Fermanagh, is perhaps one of the most 
remarkable remains of a large lacustrine settlement to be seen in 
Ireland. The country people have a tradition that, in ancient 
times, a road or roads, leading from island to island, passed 
through the lake. When the water level is very low, traces of 
these "roads" may be discerned consisting of peaty ridges, leading 
from dwelling to dwelling, probably composed to a great extent 
of the fallen platforms or gangways. Two rows of stakes 
extending along the sides of the ridges, placed about 4 feet 
asunder, mark the width of the causeways, which were probably 


Fig. 71. 

Former appearance presented by Lmigh Kyes and its artificial islets. An attempted 
restoration of the ancient settlement. By W. F- Wakeman. 

supported on piles. Fig. 70 is a view of the present appear- 
ance presented by Lough Eyes and its islets. Fig. 71 is an 
attempted restoration of the ancient settlement. Attention 
must be drawn to the quaint boats used by their inhabitants. 
Fig. 72 is a restoration of the huge single-piece canoe, now 
in the Science and Art Museum. Judging by its great size 
it was most probably used for purposes of warfare. Origi- 
nally 43 feet over all, it was capable of carrying a crew 
of thirty-five fighting men, and, propelled by twenty paddles, 
would have attained a good head of speed. Fig. 72 repre- 
sents a common incident in ancient times, a raid on, and 
the pillaging and burning of, a cluster of lake-dwellings ; many 
of the sites bear signs which denote that the villages had 
been often demolished, burnt, and rebuilt ; the native clinging 



to his watery home with as much pertinacity as, in latter days, 
his descendant clings to his cottage on terra firma. In the pro- 
gress of many centuries this state of society in Ireland gradually 

changed. Forests were cleared, pasturage became more ample 
wild animals diminished, whilst sheep and oxen increased, and 
population became more generally spread over the country. 


Remains of very similar structures have been observed in the 
waters of the -western Pacific ; the most remarkable occur at a 
place called Metalainne where some sixty artificial islets, bearing 
a certain resemblance to Irish and British lake-dwellings, rise 
from the waters of a lagoon. This Venice of the Carolines 
covers an area of about nine square miles. The few natives 
frequenting the locality give the islets a wide berth, as they 
believe them to be haunted. They also recount a tradition that 
there was here formerly a great city, but one day a large fleet of 
canoes, filled with a horde of fierce barbarians, attacked the place, 
captured the city, and slaughtered or sacrificed its defenders. 

The gradual development of what is now the kingdom of 
Holland can be traced back to a race of wretched fish-eaters who 
dwelt upon mounds which they raised like beavers above the 
almost fluid soil. Venice, the once proud Queen of the Adriatic, 
with her marble palaces rising vision-like from her watery bed, 
was, in origin, but a cluster of fisher-huts perched on piles in the 
shallow lagoons at the mouth of the Po. When the Spaniards 
captured Mexico, the city was then a second Venice. London 
has risen to its present eminence from a nucleus of rude pile- 
dwellings. In the case of this great city, traces of these 
structures have been found both near London Wall and at 
Southwark, for the Thames was formerly a less deep but a wider 
river than at present, and appears to nave had a pile-dwelling 
population established on its shallows. 

In a romantic Greek poem on Jason's Colchian expedition, 
Onomacritus takes his heroes over almost every part of the then 
known world, and in the course of their adventures in the 
Atlantic they pass an island named Ierne, i.e., Ireland. The 
passage, however, in Aristotle (b.c. 8N4-322), in which he notices 
Ierne\ bears, it is alleged, " the unquestionable stamp of a much 
more advanced stage of geographical knowledge than that of his 
age." Perhaps the earliest notice on which dependence can be 
placed is that by Eratosthenes (b.c. 270-196). Most of his works 
have been lost ; some, however, of his references to Ireland have 
been preserved by Strabo, who maintains that he was so well 
acquainted with the western parts of Europe that he had deter- 
mined the distance of Ireland from Gaul. Strabo (born b.c. 70). 
in describing the extent of the habitable world, considered that 
it commenced to the north of the mouth of the P>orysthenes. 
This parallel, at the other extremity, passed to the north of 
Ierne. Little was known of the inhabitants of Ierne ; they were 
reputed to be mere savages, addicted to cannibalism, and hav- 
ing no marriage ties. Solinus — who is mentioned by Servius, 
Macrobius, and Prisiianus, as well as by Jerome, Ambrose, and 


Augustin, enters into more details than any previous geographer. 
He wrote before the birth of our Lord : — 

" Hibernia approaches to Britain in size ; it is inhuman in 
the rough manners of its inhabitants ; it is so luxuriant in its 
grass, that unless its cattle are now and again removed from their 
pasturage, satiety may cause danger to them. There is there no 
snake, and few birds ; an inhospitable and warlike nation, the 
conquerors among them having first drunk the blood of their 
enemies, afterwards besmear their faces therewith ; they regard 
right and wrong alike. Whenever a woman brings forth a male 
child, she puts his first food on the sword of her husband, and 
she lightly introduces the first auspkium of nourishment into 
his little mouth with the point of the sword ; and with gentle 
vows she expresses a wish that he may never meet death other- 
wise than in war and amid wars. Those who attend to military 
costume ornament the hilts of their swords with the teeth of sea- 
monsters, which are as white as ivory, for the men glory in 
their weapons. No bee has been brought thither, and if anyone 
scatters dust, or pebbles brought from thence, among the hives in 
other countries, the swarms desert their combs. The sea that lies 
between this island and Britain is stormy and tempestuous during 
the whole year, nor is it navigable except for a few days in the 
summer season. They sail in wicker vessels, which they cover all 
round with ox-hides, and as long as the voyage continues, the 
navigators abstain from food. The breadth of the island is un- 
certain ; that it extends twenty miles is the opinion of those who 
have calculated nearest the truth." 

The story about the bees, and the supposed breadth of Ireland 
excepted, Solinus is comparatively free from errors in this brief 
description, for it can readily be imagined that, to the coracle- 
voyaging native, the Irish Channel might well be regarded as 
"stormy and tempestuous during the whole year." In the 
emblematic title-page of Sir James Ware's second edition of 
" De Hibernia et Antiquitatibus ejus Disquisitiones," published as 
late as the middle of the seventeenth century (1658), Hibernia 
is represented as a kind of Diana surrounded with the principal 
products of the kingdom, and in the foreground stands a large 
tree, swarming with bees, to indicate that the land was celebrated 
for the abundance of its wild honey (fig. 73). In popular belief, 
it is still considered extremely lucky" to dream of these little 
emblems of industry and frugality, for their appearance implies 
good luck, prosperity, and happiness to the dreamer : — 

" No more of fortune's frown afraid, 
For everything in love and trade. 
Henceforth shall with him thriw." 

Cert'orum venafu id/7cp?tK~ 

Pen. Bed. Zccie/? ££u&. 'Zzl u Cap i 

rtbUiw ft 

Fig. 7j.— Hibernia surrounded with the principal products of the Kingdom. Title page of Sir 
James Ware's De Hibcrnia ct Antitjuitalibjis ejus Dis</uisiti\m,-s. Second Ed., 1658. 



When a swarm of bees suddenly quits a hive, it is a sign that 
death is hovering over the house, but the impending evil may be 
averted by the exorcism of the fairy doctor. It is not generally 
known that not only the sweet product of the insect, but the 
actual body of the bee itself, was formerly employed m thera- 
peutics. Bees drowned in honey were recommended for strength- 
ening the eyesight, for curing deafness, and for staying vomiting. 
The remedy was, however, deemed so violent in its workings that 
the curious injunction was laid on the practitioner that he should 
bind the patient, as otherwise he could not endure it. The follow- 
ing remedy is given by Celsus : — " The bodies of bees taken newly 
from the comb and powdered and drunk with diarrhetic wine 
powerfully cures dropsy." 

A remarkable tradition, which depicts St. Gobnate as the 
patron of bees, was at one time current near Macroom, county 
Cork. A chief, on the morning of a battle, perceiving with dis- 
may the inferiority in number of his followers compared with 
those of his adversaries, prayed to St. Gobnate for assistance. 
The good saint granted his request by turning a swarm of bees, 
close at hand, into armed soldiers, who issued from the hive in 
military array, ranged themselves in ranks, and followed their 
leader to victory. After the battle the victorious chief visited 
the spot from whence he had received such miraculous assis- 
tance, and found the rush-formed hive metamorphosed into a 
brass utensil. This article was formerly in the possession of 
the O'Hierlyhie family, and was held in great veneration by the 
peasantry of the district. 

Pomponius Mela, who flourished in the reign of the Emperor 
Claudius, a.d. 41-54, appears to have extracted some of his in- 
formation with regard to Ireland from Solinus, but he corrects 
his errors relative to the size of the island : — " Beyond Britain 
lies Juverna, an island of nearly equal size, but oblong, with a 
coast at each side of equal extent, having a climate unfavourable 
for ripening grain, but so luxuriant in grasses, not merely pala- 
table but even sweet, that the cattle in a very short time take 
sufficient feeding for the day, and if allowed to feed too long they 
would burst. Its inhabitants are wanting in every virtue, and 
totally destitute of piety.' 

Pliny, who wrote about the same time as Pomponius Mela, 
stated that Ireland was about the same breadth as Britain, but 
two hundred miles shorter, and that it was distant thirty miles 
from the territory of the Silures. 

Diodorus, who lived in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, 
writes that the most ferocious of the northern Gauls were stated 
to be " cannibals, like the Britons who inhabit Erin." 

From an allusion in Pliny, it has been surmised that the 


Eomans possessed a map, or topography of Ireland. After their 
conquest of Britain, Ireland became better known to them. Inter- 
course of a more or less restricted character must have sprung 
up, for commerce, in olden as well as in modern days, was " the 
parent of geography." Whether commerce followed "the eagles," 
as trade now, it is alleged, follows "the flag," is a question open 
to abundant discussion ; but Tacitus, in his life of Agricola, 
specially states that Ireland possessed a commerce superior to 
that of Britain, and that its harbours and estuaries were more 
frequented and better known to traders ; also that there was very 
little difference between the soil and climate of Ireland and that 
of Britain. 

Claudius Ptolemy who, in the second century, compiled his 
work on geography, which remained a standard text-book until 
the fifteenth century, is the only writer who has described the 
ports and inland places of Ireland with any exactitude. He 
essayed to systematize the result of ancient research, and 
although, at first sight, his map may appear grotesque, yet, if 
the feeble appliances which he had at his disposal be considered, 
the ingenuity displayed in overcoming their deficiencies should 
excite admiration. His information consists essentially of a 
table of latitudes and longitudes, evidently intended to serve as a 
sufficient guide for the construction of a map, without referring 
to any then existing charts. 

It is strange that the designation Ivernia, as Ptolemy styles 
Ireland, differs more widely than that of Ierne, by which the 
island was first known to the Greeks, from the native name, 
Erin. Ireland, in Ptolemaic geography, is placed too much to the 
north, while Scotland has been made to bend towards the east, 
instead of to the north. The map is not far wrong as regards the 
length and breadth of Ireland, but it depicts the island as lying 
north-east and south-west, instead of north and south (fig. 74), 
whilst the outlines of the coast depart, in places, so far from the 
reality as to render the identification of many of the headlands very 
problematic. Had Ireland, however, been placed in its proper 
position, and Scotland given the proper direction, the approximate 
outline of Great Britain and Ireland would have been fairly re- 
presented. This bears out the hypothesis that Ptolemy's infor- 
mation was drawn from three separate maps which afforded to 
him no guide as to their mutual relations. 

The eastern coast of Ireland must have been that best known 
to foreign merchants sailing for the port of Dublin, which, even at 
this period, appears to have been a place of importance. The first 
headland sighted would be Howth, of which the ancient Irish 
name was Ben-Edair. Opposite a town styled Eblana there is 
marked, on Ptolemy's map, an uninhabited island styled Edrus 



(fig. 75), and connected as Howth (Ben-Edair) is to the mainland 
by low- lying ground, it is easy to understand how the geographer's 
informants mistook Howth for an island. Another adjoining 
island, designated Limnus, is probably Lambay. Eblana is clearly 
Dublin (Deblana) with the d softened or omitted. To the south. 


10 II 



.**. ^h K- r. n n cat 


Venn 'cn/ 0/ 







'"(* ! 






_ CAU 


\\ ^dent's ~g 

_ A^iilsamnium_,'^_ 

EblLnaVS^"'^ jy 
.•."/ Qtdnisl ^J 




1 ' Capeoft 

> vl 



12 13 


«* I Estuary f 

BKIWtN I to <5> I Sagantii ( 
vooit /■%£- — : Sacred Cape ^ t i m \ 

"Wr - 1 — — — Seteia Estuarii— 



Fio. 75. 

Ireland according- to Ptolemaic Geography. Drawn by Henry Bradley, and 
reproduced from The Archieologia, vol. xlviii. 

of this city of Eblana, there appears the river Aboca, which 
points to its being the Avonmore in Wicldow ; but not content 
with its identification, the stream has been recently named the 
Avoca. Ptolemy places a town called Dunum on or near this 
river. The locality has not been identified, but the name is 


evidently derived from the Celtic designation of a fortress, i.e., 
(hiun. The river Buvinda, to the north of Dublin, is clearly the 
Boyne. The Vinderius, from its position, appears to be Strang- 
ford Lough, whilst the Logia may be identified with the river 
Lagan at Belfast. 

The northern coast of Ireland is the one most accurately re- 
presented, and its localities are the most easily recognizable. 
Bobogdium appears to be Fair Head ; the river Argita, the 
Bann ; the Vidua, the Foyle ; Vennicuium, Malin Head ; and the 
Northern Cape may be the Bloody Foreland. 

On the west coast the identification of localities is surrounded 
with greater difficulties. Tbe river Kavius may be the Erne ; 
the Libnius the river of Sligo, and Nagnata, either Sligo or 
Drumcliff ; the Ausoba, the river Moy ; the Sonus corresponds in 
name, though scarcely in position, with the Shannon; whilst the 
Southern Cape is doubtless one of the headlands of Kerry. 

On the southern coast the localities are almost as clearly 
defined as on the northern. The Dabrona answers in position 
to the Blackwater ; the Birgus, both in position and name, to 
the Barrow ; the Sacred Cape appears to be Carnsore Point. 

O'Donovan alludes to the ancient names of Irish rivers, and 
his opinion on the subject is here given, not alone as bearing 
upon the identification of the names, but as showing in what 
light this celebrated Irish scholar regarded some of the old Irish 
writers. Quoting a poem preserved in several mss., he states that 
in it we are given the interesting information that there were ten 
rivers in Erin at the time of Parthalon's arrival. " Now," he 
continues, " though we know that this poem is undoubtedly a 
fabrication, still it is very ancient; while therefore we reject that 
absurd part which would give us to understand that the river 
Liffey is more ancient than the Shannon, we retain it as the 
testimony of an Irish bard, that such were the names of ten 
considerable and well-known rivers in Ireland at tho time he 
flourished ; and when he either fabricated the story, or drew it 
from other historical muniments then existing, or founded it upon 
foolish traditions, the like of which are to be found among every 
nation, and upon which the commencement of the history of 
most nations is founded." O'Donovan then proceeds to identify 
them, and states by what names they are now known. Lani is, 
he points out, the Lee. Banna and Jliurblut are anglicised Bann 
and Barrow. Sninier is now styled the Erne. Sliyeaeh, M<><lhmn, 
Mnntlh are anglicised Sligo, Mourne, and Moy. Fimin, now pro- 
perly written Finn, is in the County of Donegal. Litf'e is "the 
Liffey." The identification of one river, the Unas, alone remains 

The towns situated in the interior of the country, as given 


by Ptolemy, as well as his enumeration of tribal territories, need 
be but briefly noticed, as they have not been identified, at least 
with any unanimous assent. Places situated far inland, and 
probably never visited by foreign traffickers, would be by them, 
pronounced in a more incorrect form than those at which they 
had landed. This would fully account for the fairly successful 
identification of localities along the littoral. But even with 
regard to this identification it must be admitted that the con- 
clusions of recent authorities of eminence are by no means 

Three at least of the tribes who held the eastern coast, the 
Brigantes, the Manapii, and the "Voluntii, were undoubtedly 
colonies from the opposite shores of Britain. There were also 
territories inhabited by the Coriondi, the Cauci, and the Darini. 

On the northern coast dwelt the Eobogdii in Antrim and 
Derry, and the Venniconii in the present county Donegal. 

Westward were the Erdini; next to them the Nagnatse, pro- 
bably in the county Sligo; farther south came the Autini, the 
Gangani and the Vellebori. 

The south-western littoral, together with a great portion of 
the interior of the country, was inhabited by the Iverni, who gave 
their name to the entire island. 

Now it is almost self-evident that these various tribes, 
governed by different chiefs and belonging to distinct races, must 
have differed widely in manners and comparative civilization. 
Thus we should not be justified in applying to them, individually, 
the uncomplimentary notices of these inhabitants of Ireland, 
in general, which are to be found in ancient Latin and Greek 

The information collected and tabulated by Ptolemy was 
probably known, before his time, to traders belonging to, or 
frequenting, the western coasts of Caledonia and of Britain ; yet 
it is strange that no mention is made of Tara, although two cities 
named Kegia and about eight other towns are enumerated. It is 
alleged that all vestiges of buildings, or earthworks, now or formerly 
existing on the Hill of Tara, may be classed under two distinct 
periods, both being within the limits of the Christian era. The 
most important period, and that to which, it is thought, all the 
remains now observable belong, is in the third century. Hence 
it has been concluded that, before this date, Tara was not dis- 
tinguished as a regal seat, or city, and therefore was omitted from 
the map of Ptolemy. From traces of ancient remains at Tara 
it would appear that the original structures were altogether 
composed of earth and wood, and judging from their uniform 
character, they were probably erected about the same time, and 
by the same people. 


In the year a.d. 82 the Roman general Agricola encamped on 
a portion of the Scottish littoral which faced Ireland. He appears 
to have entertained the idea of the conquest of Ireland, on account 
of its supposed strategic importance ; for the Romans, according 
to Tacitus, erroneously considered it to he equi-distant from 
Britain, Gaul and Spain. It was therefore important as a con- 
necting link in the consolidation of these provinces. From 
merchants well acquainted with the coasts and harbours, Agricola 
obtained information respecting the country he intended to 
invade, and like a very old edition of an old story, a fugitive Irish 
chief sought an asylum in the Roman camp. Under a show of 
friendship the politic general detained him to be used, as a fitting 
tool, when occasion served. Agricola was confident of success; 
he declared that a single legion, with auxilaries, would suffice for 
the conquest, a conquest that would, according to the Roman 
commander, greatly contribute to bridle the stubborn spirit of the 
Britons, who then would see, with dismay, the Roman arms 
universally triumphant and liberty totally extinguished around 
their coasts. 

It is useless now to speculate as to whether Agricola's 
estimate of the small force requisite to subdue Ireland was, 
or was not, correct, nor need national pride be wounded at 
the low estimate he made of Irish valour, for there can be 
little doubt that had the Romans landed tliey would have erected 
fortified camps and have constructed roads as they advanced; they 
would have made friends of some tribes, have employed them as 
auxilaries, and used them against their fellow-countrymen. By 
pursuing this, their usual policy, the Romans would have subdued 
the island in a much shorter period even than that spent by the 
Anglo-Normans in their conquest ; for although the first Anglo- 
Norman invasion took place in 1169, and general submission was 
given by the Irish chiefs to Henry II. in 1172, the subjugation 
was merely nominal, and not a reality. 

Agricola, however, was unable to bring his plans for the con- 
quest of Ireland to maturity, owing to an invasion of the Romano- 
British provinces by the northern tribes, which compelled him to 
turn his arms in a different direction. Some few writers have 
challenged the almost universally received opinion that Agricola 
did not invade Ireland, and assert that Tacitus, in his life of 
Agricola,, clearly alludes to it. The passage cited by them is as 
follows : — " In the fifth year of his conquests Agricola crossed in 
the first ship and subdued in a series of victories, tribes hitherto 
unknown." The contention is that the sea which Agricola 
crossed was the Irish Channel, and the unknown tribes he 
subdued were Irishmen. Of course all depends upon the identity 
of the sea crossed by the Roman general and his position at the 


time. A correct view of this demonstrates, however, the utter 
improbability of the invasion of Ireland. 

Towards the close of his fourth year's campaign (a.d. 81), 
Agricola decided to secure, by a chain of forts, the portion of 
north Britain which he had subdued. Tacitus tells us that the 
place he selected for that purpose was where the waters of the 
Clyde and Forth are only hindered from meeting by a compara- 
tively narrow neck of land. On the south side of this isthmus, 
the entire country had been evacuated by the enemy, who were 
driven, as it were, into another island. Agricola's base of 
operations for his fifth campaign (a.d. • 82) was thus evidently 
the chain of forts between the Clyde and Forth. The Irish 
having made frequent incursions into Britain, it became neces- 
sary as he advanced to secure his rear from their attach which,, 
if successful, even only on one point, would cause the British 
tribes in his rear to revolt and cut him off from southern 

Advancing on the western side of Britain, Agricola had, in 
person, examined all the firths and estuaries. From this it is 
evident that he had no fleet accompanying his army. This is 
further confirmed by his invasion of Anglesea where his troopa 
swam the Menai Straits, taking the Britons completely by 
surprise as they had " expected the arrival of a fleet and a formal 
invasion by sea." This occurred in a.d. 78, and Tacitus does 
not refer to the fleet during the years 79, 80, or 81 ; it seems,, 
during the above period, to have been stationed at its usual 
headquarters, on the south-east coast of England. An invasion 
of Ireland would have required a large fleet ; and it is not until 
Agricola's sixth compaign in a.d. 83, on the eastern side of 
Caledonia, that Tacitus mentions the fleet, when he says : — 
" Agricola ordered his ships to sail across the gulf (Bodotria,. 
the Forth) and gain some knowledge of these new regions. 
The fleet, now acting for the first time in concert with the land 
forces, proceeded in sight of the army." Tacitus then states that, 
at the sight of the Boman fleet, the Britons were utterly con- 
founded, and were at length convinced that every resource was 
cut off, since the sea, which had always been their refuge, was 
now commanded by their invaders. And from his stand-point 
Tacitus was right ; for, from this out, Britain became completely 
subjected to the power of Imperial Borne. With their inde- 
pendence the populations lost their nationality. The various 
nations who had fought so bravely for their freedom, robbed now 
of their individuality, were gradually transformed into Boman 
subjects ; the vast majority into mere Boman slaves. 

Thus it is apparent that the Britons had seen nothing of 
Agricola's fleet in his fifth campaign. This could hardly have 


been the case had he embarked a large force for the invasion of 
Ireland. There still, however, remains the statement by Tacitus 
that Agricola, although his fleet did not act with his army, crossed 
over from somewhere to somewhere in " the first ship." The 
generally accepted and most likely explanation as to this is, 
that Agricola crossed the Firth of Clyde in the first Eoman ship 
that had ever performed such a voyage, the troops probably 
marching round by land, or crossing the firth on small rafts or 
extemporised vessels. 

A few writers go so far as to assert that the Eomans, profit- 
ing by the after-tranquillity in Britain, crossed the channel and 
subdued Ireland in part. It appears as if the statements of this 
alleged conquest were based upon a claim of nominal sovereignty, 
perhaps through the submission of the fugitive Irish chieftain 
before mentioned, whom the politic Agricola kept in his camp, 
as well as on a passage in one of Juvenal's satires, written about 
a.d. 97, wherein the poet describes the conquests of his country- 
men : — " We have indeed carried our arms beyond the shores of 
Ireland, and the lately subdued Orkneys and the Britons contented 
with a short night."* Juvenal speaks, however, not of the conquest 
of Ireland, but of the manner in which the Eoman eagles were 
pushed beyond Ireland northward into the island regions where, 
in summer, the night time was of comparatively short duration. 
There is, at any rate, no notice of such an expedition in any 
classic writer, nor has proof of their occupation of the country 
ever been brought to light. Everything tends to show that no 
military occupation of Ireland by Eome ever took place ; nearly 
all Eoman antiques yet discovered are of late date, small, of in- 
trinsic value, and just such articles as a piratical band would carry 
off on account of their portability. If Agricola had invaded 
Ireland and failed, would not Domitian have been the first to 
have had him disgraced, and probably put to death ? Had 
Agricola on the other hand successfully effected such an inva- 
sion would it not have been recorded, and would it not have 
added a new title to the emperor '? 

The close of the second and the commencement of the third 
century was the palmy period of Eoman sway in Britain, then 
the richest and most flourishing province of the empire, for the 
abundance of its mineral wealth, the luxuriant crops produced 
by a virgin soil, and the discovery of clays suitable to the manu- 
facture of pottery, attracted numbers of artisans from the Conti- 
nent, and temples, palaces, villas, baths, and theatres arose all 

' . . . Anna qiiidem ultra 
Littora Juvernae pioniovimus, et modo captas 
(liiadas ac minima contentos nocte, Britannos.' 


over the face of the country.* It is but reasonable to suppose 
that this wealthy and mercantile population maintained a traffic 
with Ireland, and that some of its inhabitants visited our 
country as traders, handicraftsmen, or physicians, seeking an 
opening in a new land. The interesting discovery, in the year 
1842, of a Eoman medicine stamp, on the rising ground above 
the village of Golden Bridge in the county Tipperary, is some- 
what in favour of this theory. It is alleged, by some anti- 
quarians, that stamps of this class were not employed by regular 
practitioners, but by empiric medicine vendors to impress their 
wares, which may be styled the " patent medicines " of the 
Eomans. If this be a correct view of the case, the discovery of 
the stamp implies the probable compounding of the medicament 
in Ireland, and the Eomano-Hibernian patent medicine seller, 
Marcus Iuventius Tutianus, probably made a living in Tipperary 
by the manufacture and sale of his salve "ad veteres cicatrices.''' 
Numerous medicine stamps have been found on the Continent and 
in Great Britain, and have been the subject of much literary com- 
ment. It is remarkable that in all, or nearly all, the examples 
that have as yet been brought to light, the diseases, for which 
they are the specific, are uniformly those of the eyes ; hence 
some writers designate them "oculist's stamps." Disease of 
the eyes appears to have been extremely prevalent amongst the 
Eomans, and throughout the Western Provinces, probably attri- 
butable to some circumstances connected with the then diet or 
manner of living of the population. For these ailments of the 
eyes an immense number of colly ria, or ointments, composed 
of a great number of ingredients were compounded. These 
collyria were sometimes named from their original inventors, 
from the characteristics of the mixture, from their colour, their 
smell, or some distinguishing feature. Horace thus alludes to 
his use of a black (or dark-coloured) eye ointment : 

' ' His oculis ego nigra_nieis collyria lippus 

The medicine stamp found near the village of Golden Bridge, 
county of Tipperary, here reproduced full size (fig. 76), is formed 
of smooth, hard, fine-grained, light-grey slate. The inscription 
indicates the name of the empiric with the quality of the 
remedy : — 

uarci rvvENftV tvtiani 
diamysus ad VETefes cicatrices. 

*Mnch interesting information concerning this period is contained in a work 
entitled The Gelt, The Roman, and The Stixon, by T. 'Wright, M. \., 2nd erf., 
London, 18G0. 

t " Here I, blear-eyed, (began) to daub black eollyrium on my eyes." 


A little indistinct mark at the close of the first line resembles 
a diminutive <■. If regarded as a letter it may signify the word 
collyriuw. These quack drugs were doubtless moulded in the 

form of paste with white of egg, 
or some adhesive compound, and 
kept thus in a solid form to be 
liquefied when required for use, 
the stamp being impressed upon 


Pi«. 76. Fio. 77. 

Roman Medicine Stamp found near Ihe Impression produced by Roman 

village of Golden Hill. Co. Tipperary; Medicine Sump. Full size. 

letters in intaglio and inverted. Full From The Archieological Jour- 

size T?Tom7'heArc/ni'ologicalJournaL rial. 

the medicine just before it had attained the last stage of solidifi- 
cation, and the stamp being engraved in intaglio, with the 
letters inverted, as shown in the wood-cut (fig. 70), a durable and 
good impression was doubtless readily produced (fig. 77). 

That many Romano-British visited Ireland is extremely proba- 
ble, that a few made their home and died in the island is equally 
so, but we cannot expect, nor indeed do we find, any traces of 
even an insignificant Roman colonization. The discovery of 
Roman coins in Ireland is comparatively exceptional, although they 
are found in abundance in Britain, more especially in the vicinity 
of the sites of Roman towns, military stations, and villas. In 
Ireland the only really important find was made near Coleraine ; 
it consisted of 1500 silver coins and upwards of 200 ounces of 
silver fragments and ingots, stamped with the names of Roman 
mint-masters, about 2000 articles in all. The money presented 
specimens of coinage from a.d. 363 to 410, so that it must have 
been committed to the earth after that date ; probably about the 
time of the evacuation of Britain by the Romans. A few of the 
fragments deserve notice. Fig. 78, No. 1, formed portion of the 
ornamented silver lid of a small box, and bears traces of gilding. 
No. 2 is a narrow plate of silver, also gilt. No. 3 is another 
fragment carefully engraved. No. 4 is one of two hammered 
and inscribed portions of ingots, and bears the lettering — 


i.e. c.c njlirinii I'ntricii, "from the manufactory of Patricius." (It 
is left open for some enthusiastic writer to enunciate the theory 
that this relic may have emanated from the silver workshop of 
the national saint.) Other inscribed ingots of the same shape, 



but larger, only retain a small portion of the lettering. No. 5, 
evidently part of the lid of a flagon, bears a human head in pro- 
file, with ornaments, the style of which shows the workmanship 
to have been influenced by Egyptian ideas. No. 6 was, like 
the foregoing, originally gilt. 

Fig. 78. 

Roman Antiques found near Coleraine. About half real size. 
Ulster Journal of A rclmology. 

Reproduced from the 

From the character of this treasure it would appear to have 
been a forgotten deposit of some Irish freebooters. The coins 
that came under the writer's observation appear to have never 


been in circulation, the impressions being as distinct as on newly- 
minted sixpences. 

The poet Claudian thus extols the success of Stilicho in re- 
pelling the conjoint Irish and Caledonian attacks on the Roman 
settlements in Britain : — " By him," says the poet, speaking in 
the person of Britannia, " was I protected when the Scot moved 
all Ierne against me, and the sea foamed with hostile oars."* 

And again: "Nor did he (Stilicho) under a false name, 
conquer the Picts, and having followed the Scoti (Irish) with his 
roving sword, he cleft the northern waves with daring oars."f 

From another of the poet's eulogies, it would appear that the 
fame acquired by a Roman legion, which guarded the northern 
frontier of Britain, against the inroads of the Picts and their 
Irish allies, procured for it the distinction of being summoned, 
1))' Stilicho, to the defence of Rome against the Goths : — 

" There arrived also tin- legion spread over the furthermost Briton, 
Which bridles the ferocious Scot and examines on the dying Pict 
The hideous figures punctured by the steel. "J 

Other Roman antiques, which have been found from time to 
time in Ireland, are few in number, and of an unimportant 
character, such as might have been the result of traffic with the 
Romans. In the same way, the discovery of small hoards of 
Saxon coins is of by no means rare occurrence, being the result 
of barter, or of marauding expeditions to the English coast. 

The Saxons also seem not to have been backward in pillaging 
their neighbours; for, in an Irish MS. entitled Vlm»tictm Seotnrtim, 
their first descent on the Irish littoral is noted as having occurred 
in the year 484. This early date may be accounted for by expe- 
ditions made from temporary settlements on the islands of the 
north-west of Scotland. In the "Annals of Ulster" we learn 
that, in 471, "Ireland was plundered a second time by the 

The fact of the discovery of a Roman coin is of little import- 
ance in itself, as a single coin might be accidentally dropped and 

" Totam cum .Scot us Iernen, 
Movit et infesto spumavit remige Tethvs," 
which Camden thus freely translates: — 

"When Scots came thundering' from the Irish shores, 
And th' ocean trembled, struck with hostile oars." 
r '• Xec (also nomine 1'iotos 

Edomuit, Seotumque vago mucrone secutus, 
Fregit Hyperboroas rcmis nudacibus undas." 
| " Vemt et extremis Legio pratenta Britannis, 

Quto Scoto dat frama truci, ferroque notatas 
l'eiiegit examines Picto moriente figuras." 

De Hello Getico. 


lost by some collector ; but large deposits cannot thus be accounted 
for ; probably in times of turbulence they may have been placed 
for safety where they were long afterwards discovered. 

James Carruthers describes the discovery of a cist, containing 
a, skeleton, accompanied, as he thought, with Eoman antiques ; 
but these appear to have been all of purely native manufacture 
(see fig. 79). A Eoman coin is stated to have been found in the 
grave, but was not seen by an antiquary. There is nothing 
distinctively Eoman in the remains (except the alleged discovery 
of the coin), nothing but what has been commonly found in 
Irish, British, as well as in Saxon sepulchres. About the year 1835, 
workmen employed on the north side of Bray Head met with 
several human skeletons placed in graves side by side, and one 
or more Eoman copper .coins lay on or beside the breast, of each 
skeleton. Of these coins, some bore the image and superscription 
of Adrian, and others those of Trajan ; several of them were greatly 
corroded, and altogether illegible. 

As the Eomans never, it is believed, formed a settlement in 
Ireland, the question arises, how came the coins found in this 
locality, and under such circumstances ? It has been suggested 
that the bodies may have been portion of the crew of a Eoman 
galley lost on the shores of Wicklow. Some of the survivors- 
performed the funeral rites of their shipmates ; for amongst the 
Eomans it was deemed an act of great impiety to leave a corpse 
unburied. The coins, it is presumed, were the fee (the oblatus) 
designed to propitiate Charon, the grim ferryman, as the shades 
of those who had not the proper toll, as well as those whose bodies 
remained unburied, were condemned to wander a hundred years 
on the banks of the Styx. 

Eoman coins are not unfrequently found in Anglo- Saxon 
interments in England. In some instances only a single coin 
occurs, as though the deceased or his relatives had retained the 
old Eoman custom. 

It is a curious fact that small coins are even yet, in some 
localities in Ireland, cast into the new-made grave when the 
coffin is lowered. In the year 1870, at the funeral of a fisher- 
man from the Isle of Skye, buried in the cemetery of the old 
Collegiate Church at Howth, his countrymen carried out this 
custom. The following quaint Irish proverb is a relic of paganism, 
analogous to the Eoman custom of placing a small coin with the 
corpse to pay Charon his toll : — " No man ever went to hell 
without sixpence at the time of his death." A humorous and 
mock imprecation, the employment of which is generally confined 
to the fair sex, appears to be derived from this ancient custom, 
when a country lass exclaims : " May the devil go with you and 
sixpence, and then you will want neither money nor company." 

i it ., ...I, ,,i.-,- r<> Down, about the year i K 5 

■%j^w?-^^^?^i~^^^ '■■'•■-"■■ ■ / "" ) - 


Not far from the Pointe Du Kaz, in the Baie des Trepasses 
on the coast of Brittany, so wild is the sea that there are many 
shipwrecks, and unburied ghosts, "weeping in great anguish, 
walk up and down the shores of this bay." It must be a grue- 
some locality to live in, for "often the skeletons of these wrecked 
creatures knock at the doors of the fishermen's cabins, to beg for 

Horace, in one of his odes, represents the philosopher 
Archytos, the pupil of Plato, who perished in a shipwreck, im- 
ploring the compassion of the passing sailor to consign his body 
to the earth: — " But, sailor, do not unkindly refuse to bestow on 
my bones and unburied head a particle of the shifting sand."* 

Then, as nowadays, there were unbelievers in popular customs 
and popular religion, for Virgil exclaims : — " Do you suppose 
that the ashes of the dead or the shades of the buried care for 
that ? "f Or again, " Whether corruption dissolve the carcase or 
whether the funeral pile, it matters not ";j and there is quite a 
catholic ring in "he is covered by the heavens who has no urn." § 

In the Big Vida, a work composed, according to some 
authorities, about b.o. 2400, there is a hymn of great beauty and 
tenderness, still employed at Hindoo funeral ceremonies, from 
which the following verse is taken : — 

" Open thyself, Earth, and press not heavily ; 
Be easy of access and of approach to him, 
As mother "with her robe, her child, 
So do thou cover him, Earth." 

The reverse of the sentiment expressed in an epitaph to Sir 
John Vanbrugh, celebrated for the massiveness of his architectural 
designs : — 

" Lie heavy on him, Earth, for he 
Laid many a heavy load on thee." 

When we consider the various modes in which Boman coins 
and antiques may have found their way into Ireland, the wonder 
is, not that so many, but that so few have been dug up. 
Becords of their discovery are, nevertheless, so exceptional as 
to demand a strict investigation into each fresh instance of their 

' "At tu,_ nautii, vagne ue pane malignus areime 

Ossibus et capiti inhumato 
Particulani dare." 
t "Id cinerem ant manes credis curare sepultos f " 

% " Tabesne cadavera solvat 

An rogus, hand refcrt." 
§ •' Coelo tegitur qui uon habet urnain." 


alleged occurrence. Should the story be told by a dealer in 
Irish antiquities, it will probably originate in his desire to 
enhance the market value of the coins he has for sale in the 
eyes of the credulous purchaser. One hundred Roman coins 
wore stated to have been unearthed in a rath close to the Church 
of Killanummery, in the County Leitrim. On investigation, the 
specimens produced, but seven in number, were small sized 
third-brass Roman coins, a collection such as a tyro in numis- 
matics might have purchased for a trifling sum in any English 
dealer's shop. 

Although the Romans made no settlements, yet, in early 
Christian times, many of them came to Ireland, and they have 
left their impress in a tew local names still in existence : all 
these, however, are apparently of ecclesiastical origin. 




Emigration from Ireland to Scotland — The Countries change name — Religion of 
the Ancient Irish — Slight difference between the Religious Worship of the 
inhabitants of Ireland and that of Britain and of Gaul — The Druids — 
Great spiritual and temporal Power wielded by them — Their Teaching — 
Their Doctrines — Their Gods and Goddesses — An opposing Religion — 
Deified Mortals — A species of Ancestor Worship — The Fairies — Originally 
of human, now of diminutive Stature — Druidism never thoroughly 
established in Ireland — Trade in Slaves — St Patrick's Mission due to this 
Commerce — He lands in Ireland — Goes to the residence of his former 
master — His appearance at Tara — Lights the Pascal Fire — Incurs the 
Penalty of Death by so doing — Is summoned before the King — Expounds 
the new Religion — Contest between Christianity and Druidism — St. Patrick 
makes at first but few Converts — -Wild Legends relating to his Mission. — 
St. Patrick's belief in the efficacy of the Incantations and Magic of the 
Druids — His alleged employment of the Shamrock as a Symbol of the 
Trinity — Serpent banishing by Pagans — By St. Patrick and other Saints — 
Incredible accounts of St. Patrick's Miracles — Importation of Pagan Ideas 
and Observances into Christianity — Centres of Druidical Cult survived into 
Christian Times — Druidical Rites of Purification — By Fire — By Water. 

Oeosius, writing about the commencement of the fifth century, 
describes Ireland as inhabited by the Scoti, or Scots ; and if a 
conclusion can be drawn from St. Patrick's authentic writings, 
the designation was confined to the ruling class, the bulk of the 
people being styled Hiberionaces or Hiberneginae. 

Bede mentions the migration from Ireland into Caledonia 
that occasioned the subsequent change in name of the latter 
country, and states that the Scots issuing from Hibernia, took 
possession, "either by friendship or by the sword," of the dis- 
tricts which they still retained in Bede's time. The descendants 
of the Caledonian Scots knew of and acknowledged this fact long 
ages after. " There is a double cause why I should be careful 
of the welfare of that people" (i.e. the Irish), said James I. to 
the agents from the Irish, who waited on him in 1614, " first as 
King of England, by reason of the long possession the crown of 


England hath had in that land, and also as King of Scotland, 
for the ancient Kings of Scotland are descended from the Kings 
of Ireland ; so as I have an old title as King of Scotland, there- 
fore you shall not doubt to be relieved when you complain." 

Aidan, King of Dalriada, a descendant of Niall of the Nine 
Hostages, was consecrated, according to tradition, upon the Stone 
of Fate, long afterwards transferred to Westminster Abbey, 
where it now serves as the coronation stone. Queen Victoria is 
descended from this Scottic or Hibernian Prince Aidan, and 
through him from Niall, head King of Ireland, about the year 
a.d. 400. Aidan's descendants continued to reign over Dalriada 
till the middle of the ninth century, when a prince of this line 
united many discordant elements under one rule. The male 
line of this dynasty ended with Alexander III. It was, however, 
succeeded by the dynasties of Bruce and Stuart descended in the 
female line. From these brandies, the blood of Aidan and of 
Niall was transmitted to the royal family which now rules over 
Great Britain and Ireland. 

With regard to the first introduction of Christianity into 
Ireland, there can be little doubt but that there existed two or 
three Patricks, whose lives have been worked into a strange 
<ill<i.-podritlti. References by Tacitus, by Caesar, and by St. 
Patrick (or one of the St. Patricks) may be quoted as descriptive 
of the religion, or of the religious system the St. Patricks 

Tacitus, in his life of Agricola, says that " the manners and 
genius of the inhabitants (of Ireland) differ little from those of 
Britain." This sentence seems to imply or connote that the 
religion of the two countries was identical, an assumption which 
is corroborated by references to Druids and Druidical worship in 
some existing Irish uss. 

Ciesar states that the institution of the Druids in Gaul " is 
supposed to have come originally from Britain, -whence it passed 
into Gaul ; and even at this day, such as are desirous of being 
perfect in it, travel thither (i.e. to Britain) for instruction." Thus 
we arrive at an approximate idea of the religious opinions of the 
Irish some centuries or so before the introduction of Christianity, 
and the heathen cult could have changed but little in the 

The Druids (so Ca-sar states) taught the doctrine of the 
immortality of the soul, and of the metempsychosis. The early 
Fathers of "the Church testify to the extensive prevalence of this 
latter belief in the then current Christianity, for they frequently 
condemned it as a heresy. Origen, in his l>c Principiis, plainly 
departs from the then orthodox faith in this particular, for he 
holds that the souls of men existed in a previous state, and that 


their imprisonment, in material bodies, was a punishment for 
sins which they had formerly committed. He, however, holds 
those to be in error who quoted the speaking of Balaam's ass as 
a proof that the soul which inhabited the donkey was human, 
for he thinks that human souls cannot fall so as to become 
animals : — " Angels may sink to be men or demons, and the 
latter may rise to be men or angels." Origen, who lived in the 
third century, is, in a general way, regarded as orthodox (i.e. 
believing as you believe), his defence of Christianity having 
probably condoned his heterodoxy (believing as your opponent 
believes) upon this point. His belief certainly seems to approxi- 
mate to that attributed to Buddha in the East, and Plato in the 
West. He quotes Scriptural authority for his contention ; he 
was a man of talent and learning, and quite as competent 
to form an opinion on the subject as other Fathers of the 

Expressions in his De Principiis exposed him to much criti- 
cism and many anathemas from his contemporaries. The 
points in which it is alleged that he " plainly departed from the 
orthodox faith " are as follows : — That the souls of men had 
existed in a previous state ; that the human soul of Christ had 
previously existed ; that our material bodies shall be transformed 
into ethereal ones at the resurrection ; that all men, and even 
devils shall be finally restored. In fact he was a too tolerant 
Father for the age in which he lived. There are analogies and 
coincidences in all religions ; thus the first missionaries in the 
East saw in the Buddhist ritual a replica of their own ; whilst the 
Spanish conquerors of Central American civilization observed in 
it many things which they considered to be devilish imitations 
of Christian rites. 

In Gaul the Druids offered various kinds of sacrifices to the 
gods whom Csesar unfortunately clothes in classic names. The 
natives of Gaul worshipped Mercury as their chief God, the 
inventor of all the arts, and the promoter of mercantile affairs, 
who appears to equate with the Irish god, Manannan Mac Lir ; 
next came Apollo, who cured diseases — he is the Irish god, 
Dianket ; Mars presided over war — probably the Irish god, 
Neit, Ned, or Nudd, to whom was offered what they took by 
arms. " To this last [i.e. Mars), when they resolve upon a 
battle, they (so Cfesar states) commonly devote the spoil." 
Minerva presided over art — probably the Irish Aynia. According 
to Cassar, the Druids taught the people in Gaul pretty much the 
same notions about the attributes of the gods as were prevalent 
amongst other nations at the time. In the Irish Pantheon, 
however, as is now known to us, all appears to be confusion, 
there is no Jupiter as in the Gaulish system ; there is apparently, 


as in early Irish political history, no acknowledged ruler, but 
" gods meet gods and jostle in the dark." 

It is best to give verbatim Caesar's account of the power of 
the Druids, and the manner in which they imparted instruction ; 
this will make clear how great was the power claimed and 
exercised by the pagan priesthood : — 

" The Druids preside in matters of religion, have the care of 
public and private sacrifices, and interpret the will of the gods. 
They have the direction and education of the youth, by whom 
they are held in great honour. In almost all controversies, 
whether public or private, the decision is left to them ; and if 
any crime is committed, any murder perpetrated, if any dispute 
arises touching an inheritance, or the limits of adjoining estates, 
in all such cases they are the supreme judges. They decree 
rewards and punishments ; and if anyone refuses to submit to 
their sentence, whether magistrate or private man, they interdict 
him the sacrifices. This is the greatest punishment that can 
be inflicted among the (rauls, because such as are under this 
prohibition are considered as impious and wicked ; all men shun 
them, and decline their conversation and fellowship, lest they 
should suffer from the contagion of their misfortunes. They 
can neither have recourse to the law for justice, nor are capable 
of any public office." 

In the eyes of any man of reflection, excommunication is as 
palpably absurd as it is wicked, but to ignorant and superstitious 
people it is no mere lirutum fulmen ; even at the present day it 
holds the first and most formidable place with the uneducated, 
and thus what was customary 2000 years ago with the Druidical 
priesthood is customary nowadays. A feeling of amusement 
is occasioned by the daring presumption in each religious per- 
suasion of a small clique of mere mortals attempting to arrogate 
to themselves the attributes of the Deity, and assuming the 
position of arbitrators of the fate of any particular individual, or 
of any number of people collectively who, according to their good 
will, shall, or shall not, enjoy happiness or reward beyond the 

Caisar states that " the Druids are all under one chief, who 
possesses the supreme authority in that body. Upon his death 
if anyone remarkably excels the rest he succeeds ; but if there 
are several candidates of equal merit, the affair is determined by 
plurality of suffrages, sometimes they even have recourse to arms 
before the election can be brought to an issue. . . . 'the Druids 
mrer i/o In tear, are exempted from tuxes and military serriees, and 
enjoy all manner nf immunities. These miyhty eneiiurayetuents imhiee 
multitudes of their own aeemd to folloie that profession ; and many 
are sent hy their parents and relations. They are taught to repeat a 


great many verses by heart,, and often spend twenty years upon 
this institution ; for it is unlawful to commit their statutes 
to writing, though in other matters, whether public or private, 
they make use of Greek characters. They seem to follow this 
method for two reasons : (1) to hide their mysteries from the 
knowledge of the vulgar ; and (2) to exercise the memory of 
their scholars, which would be apt to lie neglected had they 
letters to trust to, as we find is often the case, . . . They teach 
likewise many things relating to the stars and their motions, the 
magnitude of the world and our earth ; the nature of things, 
and the power and prerogatives of the immortal gods. ... In 
threatening distempers and the eminent dangers of war, they 
make no scruple to sacrifice men, or engage themselves by vow 
to such sacrifices, in which they make use of the ministry of the 
Druids ; for it is a prevalent opinion among theni that nothing 
but the life of a man can atone for the life of a man, insomuch 
that they have established even public sacrifices of this kind. 
Some prepare huge colossuses of osier-twigs into which they put 
men alive, and setting fire to them, those within expire amidst 
the flames. They prefer for victims such as have been convicted 
of theft, robbery, or other crimes, believing them the most 
acceptable to the gods ; but when real criminals are wanting, 
the innocent are often made to suffer." 

The Celtic word for Druid, i.e., drill [dree), takes a " d " in the 
end of its oblique cases (gen., druad). Both Greek and Latin 
borrowed this word from the Celtic, and through them it has 
found its way into English in the oblique form, Druid. " Not- 
withstanding the long lapse of time since the extinction of 
Druidism, the word 'Druid' is still a living word in the Irish 
language. Even in some places where the language is lost the 
word is remembered, for I," remarks Dr. Joyce, " have repeat- 
edly heard the English-speaking people of the south apply the 
term slioundhree (scau-drui, old ' Druid') to any crabbed, cunning, 
old-fashioned looking fellow.'' 

The term "Druid" is perpetuated in the names of several 
localities — Loughnashandree, "the lake of the old Druids," lies 
near the head of the harbour of Ardgroom ; the ancient name of 
Eed Hill, near Sureen, county Sligo, was Knocknadrooa, the 
" hill of the Druids." A well, not far from the village of Fresh- 
ford, county Kilkenny, is styled Tobernadree, "the well of the 
Druids." Loughnadrooa, three miles west of Lough Derg in 
Donegal, signifies "the lake of the Druids." In tbe parish of 
Clogherny, in Tyrone, there is a townland called Killadroy, "the 
Druid's wood." A point of land in the Island of Achill is named 
Gobnadruy,"tbeDruid's point"; whilst Derrydruel, near Dunglow 
in Donegal, means " the Druid's oak-wood." 


The " Druid Stone," at Killeen Comiac, near the entrance to 
the cemetery, measures upwards of six feet in length, and is a foot 
square (fig. 80). On the upper surface of this monument an inscrip- 
tion is engraved, in large uncial letters, which reads, according 
to the late Eev. J. F. Shearman, ivveredrvvides. Under this, 
on the arris, are Ogham scores. The reading given by Ferguson 
is iv. vere. dkuides, "the four true Druids." This discovery of a 
bilingual inscription in Ireland is, it is believed, the first on 
record. It is, as the above writer observes, " as regards the use 
of the word ' Druid ' in its Latinised form, a unique example in 
the inscriptional records of the British Isles." 


Fie, so. ^" ////// 

Hilingual inscribed stone at Killeen Corinac. Reproduced from the Journal of 
tile present Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

There is comparatively little trace of the religion of the 
Druids now discoverable, save in the folklore of the peasantry, and 
the references relative to it that occur in ancient and authentic 
Irish manuscripts are, as far as present appearances go, meagre 
and insufficient to support anything like a sound theory for 
full development of the ancient religion. However, if careful 
examination be made of all the traditions bearing on this subject, 
iind they be compared with the strange customs still in many 
places prevalent, much light maybe thrown upon many at present 
incomprehensible passages in Irish manuscripts, as also upon 
early Irish religious history in all its branches. We must, there- 
fore, of necessity, return to references to Druidism in classic 
writers, and the inquiry, after wandering in different channels, 
returns for solution to the apparently simple, yet really difficult, 
problem — was Irish Druidism the same as that of Gaul and 
Britain, and are we entitled to apply to it the description of 
Cicsar and others ? 

The peculiar character of the Druidic organization precluded 
the existence of any very abnormal difference in the Druidism of 
Gaul, Britain, and Erin ; nay, further, if we assume, as C;esar 
states, that Druidism not only had its origin, but even its chief 
seat, in Britain, we cannot but conclude that, at whatever period 


we may fix on for its first introduction into Ireland, there could 
have been but little difference between it and the Druidism of 
Gaul. There is, therefore, little in Caesar that might not be 
applied to Irish Druidism, as that religion is faintly depicted in 
alleged early Irish manuscripts. Cassar styles the priests by the 
general name of Druids. Strabo divides them into three classes, 
Bards, Vates, and Druids, and he makes the Vates the sacrificing 
priesthood and instructors of the schools ; thus, according to this 
authority, the Druids were the ministers or priests, the Vates 
were the sacrificers, and the Bards were the makers of song and 
of history. 

Under Christianity the bards in Ireland appear to have been 
the representatives of the old Pagan Druids. Before and long 
after the introduction of the new creed they were a very influential 
class. They may have been countenanced by the Druids — they 
certainly were by the new priesthood — and, when superadded to 
the clergy, they, from their numbers, became very oppressive. 
Often threatened with expulsion from the kingdom, they, on one 
occasion, would certainly have been expelled had it not been for 
the exertions of St. Columbkille. 

In the present day we can hardly estimate the full strength of 
superstitious sanctity that was attached, even in Christian times, 
to the person, property,, or estates of the bards. To plunder 
this sacred caste was, in the belief of the Irish, sure to draw down 
supernatural punishment, so that they were bold men indeed who 
ventured to touch their person, to reap where a bard had sown, 
or to graze their herds where the bards were wont to pasture 
theirs. Begarded as a power to be propitiated at any cost, the 
bard descended, almost imperceptibly, in the scale of importance, 
until he was looked on as a merely dangerous person, a fall in 
dignity which, little by little, ushered in the period when the 

" No longer courted and caressed. 
High placed in hall, a welcome guest," 

degenerated into 

" A wandering harper, scorned and poor, 
Who begged Ms bread from door to door." 

The Irish appear, if any reliance can be placed on their early 
traditions, to have had, like the Gauls, an Arch-Druid, whose 
abode was in Meath, and there the entire body of the priesthood 
assembled annually.* Like the Gaulish Druids, it was the duty of 

* " That all the Druids of Ireland assembl'd there on the first of November, 
as several authors injudiciously write, is not only a thing improbable, but also 
false in fact ; nov were they otherwise there at that time, nor all at any time 


Irish bards to commit a number of verses to memory, and Caesar's 
statement that they committed none of their tenets to writing, 
although the art was by them known and practised in all other 
branches, makes it probable that the Irish Druids also may have 
been acquainted with the use of letters. 

A very curious and hitherto but little noticed passage from the 
works of a Greek traveller named iEthicus deserves attention. 
One writer asserts that iEthicus was born at the commencement 
of the second century ; another, that he only saw tbe light at the 
end of the third, or the beginning of the fourth ; in fact, it would 
seem at present impossible to define, with any exactness, the 
period at which he lived. The only certain fact is that he does 
not appear to have had an exalted opinion of Irish literature. 
The passage is from a work entitled (Josmoynijiliinui .F.thiri htrii, 
translated from Greek into Latin by a presbyter named Hierony- 
mus. The author seems to aim at extreme brevity, using in one 
part very elliptical phraseology : — 

" He hastened to Ireland and made some stay there, examin- 
ing their volumes, and he called them iilmmorha, or irfm Mstas, 
that is unskilled workers, or uneducated teachers. For, setting 
them down as worthless, he says : — To end one's travels with 
the end of the world and to come to Ireland is a heavy labour. 
But no opportunity (of gaining knowledge by painful travels) 
excites disgust too great (for encountering the pain), yet it profits 
not in point of utility. It (Ireland) has unskilled occupants and 
inhabitants destitute of instructors."* 

Cu'Sar states that the Gaulish Druids taught the doctrine of 
the transmigration of souls, i.e. that the soul does not die, but 
after the death of the body passes to another body. The Druids 
also believed that the souls of men existed in a prior state, and 
that after the dissolution of the body they passed into other 
bodies : the body was a mere prison for the soul, which could 
be purified and exalted by the mortification of its corporeal 
envelope. It may be said that, in all this there is a great amount 

together in one place, but as now all tlie clergy of England are said to be 
present in tlieiv convocations — that is, by their representatives and delegates. 
Thus Cesar is likewise to be understood when, after speaking of tbe Archdruid 
of (iuule, be says that the /Iruids, at a eertain time of the t/ettr, usseinbCd in a 
roitxrmrfnl <jrore in the country of the Cirrnnies, which is reehoifd the middle 
m/ion of oil (Itni/e."— To/ami's' History of Ihr //raids, new edition, 1814, 
p.HS.' ' _ 

* "llilievniaiu nroperavil et in ea aliquandin eominoratus est eorera volumina 
vulvens. Apellavit<iue eos ideomochos, vel ideo bistas, id est imperitos laboratores 
vel ineultos doelores. X;mu|iie pro nihilo eos tlucens ait ; nunidi tinibus termi- 
nai'e et Iliberninin prevenire onerosus est labor, sed nulla facultas horrorem 
nimiiiiu ineutit, sed ad utilitatem non profieit. In peritos habet ciiltores et 
inslruetoribiis habut destitutes habitatores." 


of conjecture ; the evidence, however, on which it is founded is 
derived from a number of independent sources, and is not easily 
gainsayed. Druidism seems to have been, wherever it existed, 
pretty much the same ; although similar situations may lead to 
similar sentiments and corresponding practices, yet, in this 
case, the similarity is too great and extends to too many parti- 
culars to be thus accounted for. The Irish appear to have 
believed, not merely in the transmigration of one human soul 
into the body of another human being, but in the transformation 
of one body into another — a relic, probably, of the religion or 
religions supplanted by Druidism. Thus the soul of a man 
might pass into a deer, a boar, a wolf, a fox, &c, a state which 
may be described as a continuous existence of metamorphosis. 
A. curious example of the survival of this superstition may be 
cited from the county Galway, where, in former times, if a 
fisherman of the Claddagh happened to see a fox, or even hear 
its name mentioned, he would not on that day venture to sea. 
A butcher took a humorous and mischievous as well as a 
pecuniary advantage of the simplicity of his neighbours, who 
never went to fish on Saturday, for fear of breaking in on 
the Sunday. Friday was one of their most favoured fishing 
days, and a successful "take" on that day had the effect of 
reducing the price of meat in the ensuing Saturday's market. 
The butcher, whose calling was thus injured, contrived to pre- 
vent them starting by parading a fox every Friday morning 
through the village. 

By superior intelligence, the result of long and, as regards 
their age, profound study, the Druids acquired an undisputed 
authority. They certainly studied the book of nature, the proper- 
ties of plants and herbs, together with such knowledge of subtle 
poisons and drugs, as enabled them to either kill or cure. 
The Druids must also have possessed quick powers of pene- 
tration and decision, and utilized their knowledge to enhance 
their reputation for possession of necromantic powers. In short, 
the marvels of natural magic may have been practised under the 
Druidical cult ; for magic — which may be defined as " a childish 
attempt to control the invisible forces which regulate the pheno- 
mena of nature" — is probably coeval with the first germs of 
religious thought. 

Whether there really exists amongst races, which we regard 
as inferior, a certain power lost by those more highly developed, 
appears to be a subject well worthy of investigation. Many 
of the lower animals are gifted with instincts, or faculties, much 
keener than those now possessed by man, although some of these 
are shared to a great extent by savages. It may well be that 
those nearly allied to the earlier races may retain many more of 


those occult instincts or faculties of the lower animals than 
highly civilized man ; for, after making every allowance for the 
effects of imagination, of religious excitement, and of trickery, 
there yet remains a substratum of as yet unexplained facts which 
has never been satisfactorily accounted for, particularly in regard 
to that supposed influence sometimes styled hypnotism. 

In the religious feelings of the peasant there continued to dwell, 
from generation to generation, a firm belief in the power of the 
modern representatives of the priesthood of the past ; charms 
were relied on and practised by the most zealous followers of the 
new religion, and all the centuries which passed were unable to 
obliterate the dark superstitions of the Eld. It is true that in 
late times the half-educated peasants publicly profess to be 
ashamed of such practices ; but none the less do they cling 
tenaciously, in secret, to the mysteries which their fathers and 
mothers taught them to dread, and the deep-rooted belief of the 
people in this kind of witchcraft still meets one at every turn. 
Unreasoning credulity and superstition are more deeply rooted, 
both by hereditary tendency and direct tradition, in the southern 
than in the northern races ; and it is by no means improbable 
that there existed in some districts of Mediterranean Europe, 
until very recent times, an almost open worship of the ancient 
pagan deities. It required, as a matter of course, to be semi- 
veiled ; for all vanquished religions, no matter how pure they 
might be — though no one can allege that Eoman paganism was 
pure — are accused, by the conquering creed, as early Christianity 
was accused by moribund paganism, of teaching indecent rites 
and organized immorality. When Christianity was triumph- 
ing, it made similar accusations against paganism, and, when 
enabled to use the secular arm, it invariably proceeded from mere 
vituperation to deeds of stern repression and even of the grossest 
barbarity. It is clear, therefore, that the biased testimony of the 
Fathers must be taken with a considerable degree of caution with 
regard to their allegations regarding paganism. 

According to the best authorities many of the original deities 
of the Irish appear to have been sidke (pronounced sltee), that 
is deified mortals ; for they dwelt in the places where the dead 
had been deposited, and in and around them assembled for 
worship the family or clan of the deified persons. Hence it 
might be termed a species of ancestral worship, and probably 
took its origin in that nameless fear of the dead which, in most 
savage peoples, finds expression in innumerable ways. Sii/lir 
also signifies the habitations supposed to belong to these beings 
in the hollows of the hills and mountains. Originally applied to 
a fairy palace, it was afterwards gradually transferred to the hill 
upon which a fairy palace was supposed to have formerly stood, 


and ultimately to the fairies themselves. At the present day the 
word generally signifies a fairy. 

Mr. W. B. Yeats has written at large upon traces of the fairy 
faith still remaining amongst the Irish peasantry. He is a poet 
and a mystic ; and it is, therefore, not easy for the mere modern 
Philistine always to grasp his meaning — so if the writer has not 
quite mastered it, he begs to be excused. 

Mr. Yeats is of opinion that the peasants still believe in their 
ancient gods, who gather in the raths or forts, and about the 
twisted thorn trees, and appear in many shapes — " now little and 
grotesque, now tall, fair-haired, and noble, and seem busy and 
real in the world, like the people in the markets or at the cross- 
roads . . . and they believe . . . that the most and the best of 
their dead are among them." The writer then relates a number 
of stories illustrating these ideas, which he has himself heard 
from Irish peasants. The following are the salient points to be 
noticed in this collection : — 

The ancient gods, or spirits, styled by the peasantry "the 
others," take most children who die. They prefer the young, 
because they have a longer time before them, which may be 
spent in their service ; but they take the old also. They prefer 
the good and pious, and do not like idle or cross people. The 
living often meet "the others," and recognise among them 
former friends and neighbours. Persons "taken" have like 
" the others " the power of assuming various shapes. Those who 
have been " taken " sometimes return for a short time, and may 
perform kindly offices about their old homes. "The others" 
often take a good hurler or dancer, or cows and horses. About 
food there seems some difference of opinion, as " the others " can 
come into a house, use what they like, and what is consumed will 
not be missed in the morning. 

A general theory propounded in these tales seems to be that 
men, animals, and plants are endowed with a certain power and 
length of life. This may be expended either all here under ordi- 
nary conditions, or all among and in the service of " the others," 
or the first portion of life amongst mortals, and the balance with 
" the others." " Taken " is therefore a better word for the change 
than "die." At the end of the allotted period some further 
undefined transformation takes place. 

The principal root idea of all this seems to be, according to 
Mr. Yeats, that once upon a time the gods of light and of good 
fought against those of darkness and of evil. The good gods won, 
and got possession of the world. After a time, however, the race 
of mortals fought against these good gods (" the others"), over- 
came them, and forced them to live in raths and other hiding 
places. Though defeated, the gods still carry on a kind of 


mild guerilla warfare. They are on the whole kindly, and treat 
their captives well. This appears to be a mere adaptation of 
the theory of M. Jubainville. Nothing is more detrimental to 
the progress of arclneological research than that indolence of 
reasoning power which seduces poetical imagination to place 
an apparently unswerving faith in opinions expressed primarily 
as mere provisional conjectures — and not only to blindly accept 
these tentative speculations, but to essay to enduce careless 
readers to accept them as irrefutable canons of archaeological 

It would seem to have taken a lengthened period before the 
inhabitants of the raths and sepulchral mounds assumed, hi 
popular imagination, their present diminutive size. In a medi- 
aeval " Life of St. Patrick" it is narrated that, at one time in his 
travels, he repaired to a fountain about sunrise, where he stood 
surrounded by his clergy. Two daughters of the king came, at 
an early hour, to the fountain to wash, as was their custom, and 
encountering the assembly of the clergy at the well, in their 
white vestments, with their books, they wondered much at their 
appearance, and thought that they were fairies or phantoms. 
They questioned St. Patrick on the subject, and asked, " Whence 
have you come ? Whither do ye go ? Are ye men of the sidhe 
or are ye gods?" Thus it appears that, when this story was 
composed, the sitthe population was, in popular imagination, of 
ordinary or human stature. It is clear that this sirf/ie-worship 
had no affinity to Druidism ; in fact was quite opposed to it ; was 
of altogether a lower standard ; and therefore most likely preceded 
it in Ireland ; and it appears probable that, at the time of the 
arrival of the first Christian missionaries, the two religions had 
not amalgamated. When, owing to the presence and pressure 
of Christianity, the two systems were, as seems likely, driven 
to coalesce, by opposition and persecution, the ceremonies of the 
different worships, and the various systems of primitive thought 
were, in general, retained. It results that to this very day 
.seeming contradictions abound when folklore, as a whole, is 
carefully examined. 

O' Curry points out the strange medley of Druidism and 
fairyism. He quotes from a ms. that " the demoniac power was 
great before the introduction of the Christian faith, and so great 
was it that they (i.e. the ties siillir, or dwellers in the hills) used 
to tempt the people in human bodies, and that they used to show 
them secrets, and places of happiness where they should be 
immortal ; and it was in that way they were believed ; and it was 
these phantoms that the unlearned people called .«'(//«•, or fairies, 
and acx xitllte, or fairy people." 

In some old tales the Druid and the fairy, then of full mortal 


stature and of either sex, appear in direct antagonism. In the 
story of " Connla of the Golden Hair and the Fairy Maiden," the 
king calls his Druid to his assistance to prevent a fairy from 
bewitching and carrying off his son to the " Land of the Living." 
The sympathies of the listeners are all enlisted on the side of the 
fairy as against the Druid, whose incantations are finally of no 
avail against her power. These sidhe deities, fairies, or demi-gods, 
like those of other nations, not unfrequently intermarried with 
the daughters of men, and their offspring were either demi-gods, 
or became the heroes of Irish romance ; they married, multiplied, 
warred, murdered, and thieved like their worshippers on earth. 
It is unjust, therefore, to recount as sober facts the records of 
these purely mythical tales. In the older stories heroes live, 
without scruple, with the fair ladies of the hills, as Ulysses with 
Calypso ; but in later tradition, when the Christian bard redacted 
these occurrences, the poor hero, by the illicit union, forfeits his 
salvation: and the ghastly superstition of the lianhamhee is pro- 
bably the best surviving relic of this belief. Carleton has made 
it the subject of one of his Irish stories. The spirit appears in 
the shape of a young and beautiful female, who forms a peculiar 
attachment for a certain mortal. If he falls under the spell of 
the fairy he can never marry : for, although invisible to ordinary 
sight, she is always visible to, and never leaves the presence of, 
the person to whom she is attached. According as he reciprocates 
her affection she rewards him by teaching him unearthly music, 
the art of healing, and other invaluable secrets of Fairydom. 
The haunted man does not retain his reason for long, and 
generally commits suicide. 

The alleged late introduction of Druidism into Ireland cannot 
be refuted by pointing to the appearance, in Irish manuscripts, 
of Druids from the days of Noah (or even earlier) to those of 
St. Patrick. In late writings, Druidism is certainly sometimes 
rampant ; but examine pieces, which bear intrinsic marks of com- 
paratively ancient compilation, and observe what a small part is 
played by the Druid. In the hymn of St. Patrick, whilst idolatry 
occupies a prominent position, the Druid is barely mentioned. 
In St. Fiacc's life of the national Saint, the author, instead of 
depicting him as overcoming druidic magic, describes the various 
tribes as adoring sidhe, a worship opposed to druidism ; and in 
most ancient mss, the Druid does not appear. We may infer 
from this that Druidism was never thoroughly established in the 
kingdom ; that the Druids, whom Roman persecution in Gaul and 
Britain drove over to Ireland, were regarded as magicians, and 
were taken under the protection of the various petty kings and 
chiefs. Irish Druidism was in the act of spreading and organizing 
itself, but had not time for universal development before the 


arrival of St. Patrick. In one of the tracts of the Book of 
Armagh, the Druids of Tara are brought out in bold relief, but as 
a mere foil for the sole purpose of exalting the Christian hero 
who was to destroy their power. 

If, at the advent of Christian missionaries, there was still an 
unhealed feud between the Druids, or priests of the recently intro- 
duced spiritual religion — which appears to have been that held by 
the chiefs and upper classes — and the majority of the people, who 
were uilhc or ancestor worshippers, pagans pure and simple, this 
would quite account for the easy conversion of Ireland to Chris- 
tianity. Kings and Druids going over, with comparative ease, to 
Christianity, would bring in their train some portion of their 
followers, and would place entire power, political and ecclesias- 
tical, in the hands of the converted Druidical priesthood ; but the 
mass of the people would drag in and implant in the Christian 
Church organization their ancestor worship, and the numerous 
traces of paganism still distinctly to be observed throughout the 
land. The bent of mind in human nature seems ever to have 
run in the same groove. Erasmus points out how, on the Conti- 
nent, in his time, each trouble, each disease, had its patron and 
a prescribed formula for its cure. " This cures the toothache ; 
that assists women in childbed ; a third restores what a thief has 
stolen ; a fourth preserves you in shipwreck ; and a fifth preserves 
your flock." 

After a lengthened period the public worship of heathen 
deities ceased among the mass of the population, but many 
privately practised it with tenacity. Whilst the memory of the 
greater divinities of the Irish Pantheon appears to have died out, 
belief in the minor powers, the i/aiii locurum, and fairies, firmly 
maintained its hold. In the same way, as already mentioned, 
that in parts of southern Europe Christianity did not completely 
obliterate the ancient religion, but was coexistent with it. It is 
not the major, but the minor deities which still retain — to a great 
extent, but under other names — their hold on the imagination of 
the peasantry ; and in like manner, if Christianity were supplanted 
in Ireland by some other religion, it is probable that, though the 
name and attributes of the Deity might, in time, be forgotten, 
yet some of the tales and legends regarding the numerous army 
of saints would linger on. 

Trade in slaves undoubtedly formed a portion of early Irish 
commerce, and in the early and late political institutions of 
Ireland, it is alleged that slavery formed an important part. The 
mass of the lower class of the community were born in a state 
of serfdom, and individuals — and even tribes — for crimes real 
or alleged, were frequently, according to the authority of some 
writers, reduced to the condition of slaves. Foreigners captured 


in war were subjected to the same fate ; and the captivity of St. 
Patrick, to which circumstance Ireland is said to be indebted for 
the Christian faith, was occasioned by a marauding expedition of 
an Irish chief — to an unidentified locality either in Caledonia, 
Albion, or Gaul — seeking for plunder, as well as desiring to recruit 
the number of his slaves. Captives were made, not so much in the 
hope of ransom, as for marketable property. At a later period 
Giraldus Cambrensis states that the Irish were accustomed to 
purchase Englishmen and boys from merchants and marauders. 

Probably for some time antecedent to the generally recorded date 
of the introduction of Christianity into Ireland, small and scattered 
Christian communities may have secretly existed in the country. 
They may have been founded through the ordinary channels of 
commerce ; by the zeal of missionaries ; by captives carried off by 
the Irish, who, at this period, harried the coasts of Britain and 
of Gaul ; by Christians, who had fled from the Eoman dominions 
to avoid persecution, or from the swords of the northern hordes 
already harassing the seaboards. 

According to the Tripartite Life, it would appear that St. 
Patrick, when on one of his missionary tours, after ordaining a 
presbyter named Ailbe, informed him of the existence of a stone 
altar, in an underground chamber, in the mountains of Tirerrill, in 
county Sligo. This, though only a legend of the twelfth century, 
points to the previous existence of a tradition that there had 
been missionaries in the land before St. Patrick, otherwise whence 
came the buried altar ? If any conclusion can be drawn from the 
ancient records, it is that the whole of Ireland did not submit to 
St. Patrick's influence. When he wrote his Confessio, he tells 
us that he looked daily for a violent death, or to be brought again 
into slavery. St. Patrick no more made Ireland a Christian land 
than Luther made the German, Knox the Scottish, or Henry VIII. 
the English Eeformation. His phenomenal success almost con- 
clusively demonstrates this. Many had worked the ground before 
him ; many contemporaries helped to work the ground with him, 
and diffused and confirmed his teachings ; whilst many laboured 
in the field after him. Lanigan, in his Ecclesiastical History, 
states that : — " It is universally admitted that there were Christian 
congregations in Ireland before the mission of Palladius, which 
took place in a.d. 131, of which, were there no other proof, the 
testimony of Prosper forms sufficient evidence ; for in his 
chronicle of that year he says that Palladius was sent to the 
Scots believing in Christ, that is, as he informs us elsewhere, 
to the Scots in Ireland. But how, or by whom, the Christian 
faith was first introduced it is impossible to determine." 

Tertullian boasted that, in his day, Christianity had penetrated 
to parts of the British Isles inaccessible to the Romans, yet the 


few allusions to the supposed establishment, on a large scale, 
of Christianity in Great Britain and Ireland, in early Christian 
writers, such as the above quoted, and Origen or Jerome, may 
evidently be regarded, to a great degree, as rhetorical flourishes. 
Thus, when zealous fathers wish to impress the widely extended 
area of the Gospel field, they describe it as extending from India 
to Britain, without considering whether they were literally correct 
in thus indirectly implying that there then were Christian com- 
munities in either of the two extremes of territory. Amongst the 
immense number of Roman interments and mortuary inscriptions, 
found in Great Britain, we do not discern traces of the religion of 
Christ. We are driven back, by this want of material evidence, 
to the inevitable conclusion that Christianity was not, either 
openly or surreptitiously, established in Roman Britain, a con- 
clusion totally at variance with the preconceived ideas into which 
we have beenled by the school of both early and medieval ecclesias- 
tical historians. However, among the Roman soldiery, strangers, 
mechanics, and settlers who visited Albion there may, doubtless, 
have been a fair sprinkling of secretly professing Christians. 
Christianity had evidently been to some extent established in 
Britain when we read of the mission of Roman ecclesiastics to 
put down " the heresy of Pelagianism." The groat supporters 
of this heresy were, it is stated, two Irishmen, Pelagius, alleged 
to be a native of Bangor, county Down, and Celestius, both 
celebrated as theologians, against whom St. Augustine and St. 
•Jerome entered the lists of controversy, the first in a spirit of 
Christian toleration, the latter with all the coarseness and violence 
for which he was distinguished as a polemic, and which earned 
for him the title of " the foul-mouthed." The fact that these 
Irishmen had left their native land as missionaries is another 
proof) if further be necessary, that Christianity had taken some 
root in Ireland before the mission of St. Patrick. However, on 
the other hand, it is alleged that Pelagius was a mere layman, 
and that Celestius was a lawyer, that there is very little known 
about them, and it is not clearly proved that they ever left their 
native land. St. Jerome, in his usual polished style, calls hisadver- 
sary Celestius "a blockhead swollen with Irish stirabout (Scatuntm 
piiltiliiis prtietjritrtttiix), a great corpulent barking dog, fitter to kick 
with his heels than to bite with his teeth ; a Cerberus who, witJi 
his master Pluto (so Jerome designated Pelagius), deserved to be 
knocked on the head and so pur, to eternal silence." In other 
words, St. Jerome suggested in very broad terms that the 
" heretic " who did not agree with him ought to be " removed." 
A baffled controversialist frequently gives vent to his resent- 
ment by anathematising the opponent he is unable to refute ; if 
ii point in an argument be too strong to be directly met, a 



side-issue may be raised by consigning the successful logician to 
eternal damnation. 

It is immaterial to fix the exact date of St. Patrick's arrival 
in Ireland, first as a slave, secondly as a missionary. Let it 
suffice that it was some time in the fifth century, and that he 
be acknowledged as the author of the composition styled "St. 
Patrick's Hymn," the St. Patrick who spent six years of his life 
in slavery in Ireland, the captive of an Irish chieftain, who lived 
near Slemish, in the county Antrim. Escaping from captivity, 
he resolved to preach Christianity to the heathen Irish. It has 
been remarked that nearly all his companions were either from 
Ulster or were descended from Ultonian families. This may be 
accounted for by the fact that his residence as a slave in the 
northern portion of the kingdom made him better acquainted with 
that race than with those in other parts. This connexion with 
"the Scotic Princes," of whom he makes mention in his Con- 
fessio, and of which he was justly proud, may account for his 
change of name. A slave in Ulster, known there under his 
baptismal name of Sucat, it was important, in the prosecution of 
his missionary work, to make clear, at any rate to his princely 
adherents, that, although formerly in servitude, he was not of 
ignoble birth. Hence his recital of his pedigree — son of the 
deacon Calpornius, grandson of the presbyter Potitus. In the 
general collapse of the fabric of the Soman Empire many of the 
lowest of the populace "assumed the illustrious name of 
Patricius, which, by the conversion of Ireland, has been com- 
municated to a whole nation." Although this title at the time, 
had, with the Eonian and semi-Eomanized population, lost its 
peculiar meaning and had become merely a personal cognomen, 
yet, amongst the "barbarous" or non-Eomanized tribes of 
Ireland, it would most probably carry some of its original 
importance, and would, doubtless, impress "the Scotic Princes," 
who would have turned with disdain from the teaching of a mere 
slave, with a sense of the missionary's dignity. 

St. Patrick probably landed near Downpatrick, for a chief 
named Dichu, who ruled over a district in this neighbourhood, 
having entertained St. Patrick and his companions, became his 
first convert to Christianity, and granted his barn to be used as 
a church, " which place," writes Ussher, " from the name of that 
church, is called in Scotic to this day Sabhall Patric," i.e., 
" Patrick's Bam," represented by the modern name " Saul." 

A very likely story relates that, soon after his landing, he 
made his way towards the house of his former master, Melclm, 
hoping to convert him and his household to Christianity. The 
chieftain, hearing of his approach, as well as rumours of the fame 
and power of his former slave, dreaded his advent, feelin« certain 


that St. Patrick would enslave him in turn, so when the mission- 
ary ascended the slopes of Slemish he found that his late master 
had gathered all his goods together in a huge funeral pyre, had 
mounted it, and then caused it to be set on fire, perishing in the 
flames like a grand old heathen. In later times a cross was 
raised on the spot, from which, tradition averred, St. Patrick first 
looked down the Braid Valley on Melchu's burning homestead. 
Melohu's residence was probably the Cashel, still in a fair state 
of preservation, in the parish of Eacavan. A writer who knows 
the neighbourhood is of opinion that the traditional locality lay 
in St. Patrick's direct course to the Cashel, and although no trace 
of the cross is now to be found, the site can be identified with 
comparative certainty, as a half-demolished earn in a small plan- 
tation is still styled in Irish " the place of St. Patrick's cross." 

Arriving in the neighbourhood of Tara, the then Irish capital, 
or residence of the chief king, St. Patrick made preparations for 
celebrating the Christian festival. Denis Florence M'Carthy thus 
describes the lighting of the first Paschal fire in Ireland: — 

" On Tula's hill the daylight dies — 
On 'Para's plain 'lis dead : 
'Til Baal's unkindled fires shall rise, 
Xo fire must flame instead, 
" 'Tis thus the Icing commanding speaks, 
Commands and speaks in vain — 
For lo ! a fire defiant breaks 
From out the woods of Slane. 

' What means this flame thai through the night 

Illumines all the vale ? 
What rebel hand a fire dare light 

Before the fire of ISaal?'" 

No sooner did this light appear than the Druids recognised 
ii rival power, as this very time happened to be a great Pagan 
festival, one of the inaugurating ceremonies of which commenced 
by the extinguishing of every fire throughout the country, and 
whoever kindled one before the Druids had re-kindled theirs on 
the hill of Tarn, was liable to be put to death/' 

Despite the triumph of Christianity, a relic of this ancient 
custom still exists amongst the peasantry. On the morning of 
the first day of May it is customary, in remote districts, to 

* The Romans also extinguished the domestic altar-fire annually. It had to 
be re-kindled hy pieces of wood rubbed together until they broke into a flame. 
Alicslis, about to sacrilico her life for her husband, addresses a touching prayer 
to the domestic altar-lire. Agamemnon, returning from Troy, does not return 
thanks in a temple, but before the altar-tire of his home. This tire represented 
tho common life of the family, its entire past and future existence. 


abstain from lighting fires until the sun is at its meridian, or 
until less cautious neighbours have lighted theirs, as then the 
disaster would fall on those first so offending. An exception to 
the rule is made when smoke is seen ascending from the chimney 
of the priest's house, for, to present-day peasants, this represents 
the first signal from the pyre of old, which notified to their 
pagan forefathers the advent of the yearly new-born fire. On 
May Day embers may not be taken outside the house to kindle 
anything. A stranger will not be permitted even to light his 
pipe at the household fire, as transgression of the rule is believed 
to be followed by heavy penalties to the family. 

These relics of the past, embalmed in present day folklore, 
enable us to understand the action of the Druids, who, as soon 
as they noticed the fire lighted by St. Patrick, dreading, like 
the Ephesian artificers, a loss of their livelihood, at once came 
before the Head King at Tara, and requested him to have the fire 
extinguished, " lest it would get the mastery of their fire and 
bring the downfall of the kingdom." This is the first recorded 
instance of open conflict between Christianity and Druidism in 

Among the many wild legends relating to this event it is 
stated that the Irish king had been advised by his magicians not 
to enter the circuit of St. Patrick's fires lest he should be over- 
come by their magical influence, and to avoid this the saint was 
summoned to the king's presence, where a discussion ensued. 
One magician, who made himself prominent in opposition, was 
miraculously caught' up in the air and dashed to pieces on the 
ground. The king then ordered his attendants to seize St. 
Patrick, but a strange darkness overspread the land, and they 
turned their weapons against each other. A little later, being in 
danger, St. Patrick escaped by turning himself and his com- 
panions into stags. The more prosaic and probably more 
accurate account narrates that, ordered to appear before the king, 
the opportunity was afforded to St. Patrick of expounding the 
new religion to a distinguished audience. It was on this memor- 
able occasion, it is alleged, that he composed the hymn which he 
sang as he approached the royal presence, and thus gave the 
king to understand the foundation on which his courage rested, 
but his explanations and exhortations failed to convince his 
hearers. On the Hitpj»m-il anniversary of the death (or birth) of 
the saint, a modern paraphrase of this hymn (in which some 
allusions to ancient beliefs are most discreetly omitted) is 
sung in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, 

" Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault. 
The pealing anthem swells tlie note of praise." 


The writer has been taken to task for the statement that the 
date of both St. Patrick's birth and death are doubtful, but 
nevertheless he is of opinion that neither the year nor the day of 
St. Patrick's birth nor the year or day of his death are known. 
What Irishman, also, is unaware of the fact that, in olden times, 
two birthdays of the saint were kept, until Father Mulcahy settled 
the question ? — 

" On (he eighth of March, it was, some people say, 
That St. Patrick, at midnight, he first saw the day. 
While others declare 'twas the ninth lie was born, 
And 'tsvas all a mistake between midnight and morn. 

At last both the factions so positive grew, 

That each kept a birthday — su Pat then had two, 

Till Father Mulcahy, who showed them their sins, 

Said ' No one could have two birthdays but a twins.' 

Says he, ' Boys, don't be fighting for eight or for nine, 

Don't be always dividing— but sometimes combine. 

Combine eight with nine, and seventeen is the mark, 

So let that be his birthday.' ' Amen,' said the clerk, 

' If he wasn't a twins, sure our history will show, 

That, at least, he 's worth any two saints that wo know.' " 

A very suitable monument has at long last been placed over 
the reputed grave of the national saint at Downpatrick (fig. 81). 
The memorial, an unchiselled weather-beaten boulder of granite 
from the Mourne mountains, weighs seven tons, and completely 
covers the site. The name |)ur]nc and an early Irish cross 
are the only records on the rock. This simple treatment of a 
memorial to a great man is regarded as the nearest approach to 
the ideas on sepulture prevalent in Ireland in the fifth century.* 

The literal rendering of the sixth paragraph of St. Patrick's 
hymn, as translated by the ltev. Thomas Olden, b.a, and as it is 
not sung in St. Patrick's Cathedral, is here given. In it occur 
the only allusions made by the saint to the religion he was about 
to overthrow : — 

" So have I invoked all these virtues between me, (and these) 
Against every cruel merciless power which may come against my body 

and my soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets, 
A gain* I black laws of heathenry, 
Against false laws of heretics, 
Against craft of idolatry, 

Against spells of women and smiths and Druids, 
Against every knowledge that defiles nun's souls." 

* The nicivement for the erection of the monument was initiated by F. J. 
1'iggcr, the energetic editor of the VUtfr Joiiriml «>/ Archmlogji, and the super- 
vision of the work was undertaken by W. V. Fennell, Architect, of Belfast. 


In this hymn St. Patrick, after first "binding" to himself 
many Christian virtues, which may be taken as confession of his 
belief in certain Christian doctrines, goes on " binding " to him- 
self the elements, claiming thus, that not alone were all the 
powers of Christianity on his side, but also the very elements 
worshipped by his opponents. 

" I bind myself to-day to the virtue of Heaven, 
In light of Sun, 
In brightness of Snow, 
In splendour of Fire, 
In speed of Lightning, 
In swiftness of "Wind, 
In depth of Sea, 
In stability of Earth, 
In compactness of Rock." 

It may be inferred, from this portion of St. Patrick's hymn, 
that the Pagan Irish both adored and invoked the personified 
powers of nature, and this is corroborated by passages from Irish 
mss. One Chief King of Ireland received as pledges that the 
sovereignty should for ever rest in his family, "the sun and moon, 
the sea, the dew and colours, and all the elements visible and 
invisible, and every element which is in heaven and on earth." 
Another, having broken his oath perished " from sun and from 
wind and from the rest of the pledges ; for transgressing them, in 
that time, used not to be dared." Again, in one of the poems of 
the heroic age, it is related that when Queen Medb and the 
Connaughtmen were pressing hard on Cuchullin, the sole cham- 
pion of the Ulster men, he called on the waters, on heaven, 
earth, and the rivers to protect him, and the elements answered 
his appeal. Even St. Paul appears to have been afraid that the 
early converts to Christianity among the Galatians might return 
to their former worship of the elements, and he thus upbraids 
them : — " How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements 
whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage ; ye observe days and 
months and times and years ; I am afraid of you, lest I have 
bestowed upon you labour in vain." 

St. Patrick evidently believed that the incantations and as- 
sumed magic of the Druids were not without some real founda- 
tion, that witches were still powerful for evil, and that "smiths" 
[ctiirds) or cunning metal workers, the forgers of weapons and of 
ornaments, were necromancers ; all these, in alliance with the 
evil spirit of his belief, were arrayed against him, for the demons 
of a strange nation or tribe are always looked upon — especially by 
the conquerors — with a certain dread. Even a good Mussulman 
is not exempt from an unaccountable awe of the fetishes of the 
heathen. An Englishman having asked a Mahometan to handle 

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a fetish, he drew back, and when reminded that he was a true 
believer and ought not to be afraid of the devils of the idolaters, 
quaintly replied, " True, sahib, these are idolatrous pigs, and 
their Shaitans (devils) are accursed, but this Shaitan is most 
spiteful— something bad might happen ! " This incident shows 
how the superstitious ideas of an idolatrous tribe infect the minds 
of a superior, most strictly monotheistic, and vehemently antago- 
nistic race and creed. 

Sorcerers are not always, or of necessity, impostors, as they 
sometimes appear to believe thoroughly in themselves. Even in 
the present day some missionaries credit Polynesian wizards with 
supernatural powers, and believe them to be possessed of evil 
spirits ; others, not quite so credulous, admit that the idea is 
not improbable. If Christian missionaries believe, even now, in 
such things, it is not surprising that the first apostle to the Irish, 
some 1400 years ago, should have been equally superstitious. 

The smiths, cairds, or workers in metals, mentioned in St. 
Patrick's hymn, were held in great estimation by the pagan 
Irish. * They had their Gobhan Stmr, i.e. Goban, the artificer, 
who may be said to answer to the Scandinavian " Wayland 
Smith," or the Greek Vulcan. In Christian times architecture 
appears to have been added to his skill in metallurgy, and to 
this day primitive churches, round towers, and other buildings 
of antiquity, are, by the peasantry, attributed to the " Gobhan 
Saor," and their folk-lore is full of the wondrous myths of this 
strange personage. 

This superstitious reverence for the skilful artisan seems to 
be of world-wide occurrence. In parts of Africa, the smith is 
still looked upon as a magician, and we need but turn to the pages 
of Kenitnorth to see in what light — according to Sir Walter Scott 
— he was regarded in England so late as Elizabethan times. 
Smithcraft, witchcraft, and priestcraft alike attempt to con- 
stitute themselves a distinct and separate caste ; they surround 
the most trivial matters with an air of mystery, and essay in 
every way to enhance the importance of their art. Charlatanism 
is the same whether practised in the beginning of man's existence 
on the earth, or in the nineteenth century— in the East or in the 
West. The sword-maker, who forged the fine blades of old 
Japan, was no mere blacksmith, but ranked first of all craftsmen 
in the land, and was often vice-lord of a province. He did not 

* Dr. Joyce points out that iu Scotland the term " caird " still holds its place 
as a living word, even among speakers of English, hut has lost its original 
signification (i.e. a skilful artificer of any kind), and is now usurped hr tinkers. 
Burns, in one of his poems, so applies it : — 

" Her charms had struck n sturdy caird." 


enter on his grave duties lightly ; for when he had a blade to 
make for a great noble, the sword-maker abstained from all 
animal food and strong drink, and lived strictly alone. When 
the forge was prepared, to which no woman might approach, 
and when the steel was selected, he repaired to the temple, and 
prayed. Only after many ceremonies, when the five elements, 
" fire, water, wood, metal, and earth," were all conciliated, would 
the pious artizan take hammer in hand. 

Ceremonies connected with the forging of weapons or imple- 
ments, when accompanied with singing and chanting, by which 
means it was thought the spells, so sung, were incorporated with 
the article in course of fabrication, are mere relics of the customs 
of the Stone Age. The Apache Indians, of Mexico, sing whilst 
working their flint implements, the strokes of the mallet being 
kept in time with the music, which they declare is " great 

There is a comparatively modern notion, devoid of historical 
foundation, that St. Patrick, during his interview with the pagan 
ruler, used the shamrock to illustrate the exposition of the 
mysteries of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The origin 
of the myth is probably to be found in the early respect for the 
trefoil as a sacred plant. The Greek word comprehends the 
numerous family of plants which have triple or ternate leaves. 
In a passage in Pliny there is a curious reference to the supposed 
efficacy of the trefoil in curing those suffering from the bites of 
noxious beasts. St. Patrick and the trefoil are in popular 
legend indissolubly connected ; so that the tale of his banishing 
venomous snakes from Ireland may have had its origin in some 
superstition, such as is described by Pliny. If a farmer carries 
home a shamrock, it will go well with his cattle on May day ; 
if a maiden puts it in the shoe of her lover, without his 
knowledge, when he is starting on a journey, he will be sure to 
return ; anyone who carries it about on his person will be able 
to detect the presence of evil spirits ; gathered with gloved hand, 
and brought into a house in which there is a lunatic, without 
anyone save the bringer knowing, it will cure madness ; and 
finally, it may be added, that the four-leaved shamrock has been 
immortalized in Lover's beautiful song as a safeguard against 
every imaginable sorrow and misfortune : — 

" I '11 si-ek a four-leaved shamrock in all the fairy dells, 

And if I find its ('harmed leaves, oh, how I'll weave my spells ! 
I would not waste my magic might on diamond, pearl, or g<»hl, 
For treasure tires the weary sense — such triumph is but cold !"' 

Widely divergent views prevail in various parts of Ireland as 
to which is the true shamrock. The claim of the wood-sorrel to 


the distinction is now by many ignored, and opinions appear to 
be somewhat equally divided between two species of clover, the 
Trifulimn minus and the Trifoliiim repens ; others again uphold 
the title of the black-medick to be perfect as regards its claim to 
be accounted the true shamrock. 

The exact species of the National emblems of Great Britain 
and of Wales are quite as difficult to define. Which is the 
rose of England ? Which is the thistle of Scotland ? Which 
is the leek of Wales ? 

In the peculiarity of serpent-destruction, or serpent-vanquish- 
ing, St. Patrick by no means stands alone ; saints in the calendar, 
credited with the destruction of serpents, form a numerous body ; 
and it is, by many writers, considered that these stories owe their 
origin to the discovery of fossil remains of large extinct saurians, 
whilst others gravely assert that these relic-bearing rocks are 
memorials of the serpents whose descendants lived in the Holy 
Island until expelled by the national saint. This is again but an 
adaptation of pre-Christian legends of the destruction of fabulous 
monsters by the heroes of pagan days. A tale recounted by the 
peasantry may be taken as typical of the class, especially as the 
hero was, to some extent, the originator as well as destroyer of 
the monster ; but St. Patrick is of course brought in to award it 
its final punishment. 

One day a warrior of the Feni, named Conan, hunting in the 
mountains, came to the spot where lay unburied the skeleton of 
a witch killed by his father many years previously. A red-haired 
woman suddenly appeared beside him, and cautioned him against 
touching the skeleton ; for in the thigh-bone of the sorceress 
lay imprisoned a worm which, if it escaped and could procure 
enough water to drink, was capable of destroying every living 
thing in Erin. Disregarding the advice, the fool-hardy Conan 
fractured the bone, from which wriggled a long hairy worm, and 
the reckless warrior lifting it upon the point of his spear hurled 
it into the neighbouring lake, where it quickly developed into 
a furious serpent-like monster, devouring flocks, herds, human 
beings, and even houses, as voraciously as ever did the renowned 
dragon of Wantley. In a very short time it had eaten most of 
the cattle in Erin ; and such general indignation arose against 
Conan that he was condemned to either kill the serpent or to be 
devoured by the monster whom he had so recklessly called into 
existence. Disguised in the hide of a cow, and armed only with 
a dagger, the unhappy Conan was driven with the herd to the 
shore of the lake where the tribute-cattle were delivered, and 
was there swallowed by the monster. He found the interior 
of the serpent more vulnerable than its exterior, which was 
encased in impenetrable scales, and succeeded with his dagger 


in cutting his way out ; yet the monster was not killed, but 
lay on the shore of the lake bleeding and bellowing with pain. 
The noise attracted the attention of St. Patrick, who effectually 
secured and banished the serpent to the bottom of the lake, the 
water of which, discoloured by its blood, has in consequence ever 
since been styled Lough Derg, or the Red Lake. 

According to Irish mss. the spirit of paganism seems to have 
descended on the Irish saints. Curses flowed from their lips 
with greater frequency than blessings ; any who opposed, or did 
not at once conform to their expressed or implied wishes, were 
immediately anathematized ; they were lucky if their descendants 
escaped inclusion in the curse. 

We also get side-lights on the relations in which the Christian 
clergy stood to some of the Irish chiefs in the early days of 
Christianity in Ireland. St. Ruadan granted sanctuary to the 
murderer of a messenger of Dermot MacCarroll, and as the 
cleric refused to give him up, the king seized him by force. 
This aroused Saints Ruadan and Brendan, who made the circuit 
of the Hill of Tara, " ringing their bells and cursing it, and pro- 
phesying that no king of Ireland should ever again reside there." 
As a matter of fact, Tara was deserted from that date, and the 
writer depicts, in very forcible manner, the danger of dealing 
with these powerful " horsemen of the Canon," again, " ill for 
him who enters into strife with the clerics." " Tara without 
fire, without a house." Another poem, on the same subject, 
paints the danger of interfering with the Church, " to strive with 
her is not good sense," and " it is an evil plight to be challenging 
the clerics of the crooked staves," — the cleric having now 
assumed the role of the Druid. 

Men who know to a certainty what will happen may indulge 
in prophetic expressions of this nature. A king of the east 
Snxons, who had good-naturedly dined with an excommunicated 
person, was told by Saint Cedd that he would soon die in the 
house in which he had sinned, and when the well-meaning but 
unfortunate king was murdered, as foretold, the prophetic fore- 
sight of the saint was highly praised. We possess also the 
prediction of St. Aidan, with regard to a king who had put in 
practice the maxim, that discretion was the better part of valour ; 
a king so meek, the saint feared, was not likely to be long-lived, 
and that fear was speedily realised. 

Tuathal, King of Ireland, had banished his rival, Diarmaid, 
from his Court. Diarmaid was one day strolling along the banks 
of the Shannon, where he found St. Ciaran planting the first 
pole of a wooden church. "Plant the pole with me," said the 
saint to him, " and let my hand be above your hand on it, and 
your sovereign sway shall be over the men of Erin before long." 


Diarmaid had a foster-brother in his train who, on hearing the 
prophetic words of the saint, formed the resolution of fulfilling 
them. He immediately sprang on horseback, then gained access 
to the presence of the king, and slew him. It is needless 
to recount how, on Tuathal's death, Diarmaid's friends imme- 
diately proclaimed him King of Ireland, or that in Diarmaid 
St. Ciaran found a munificent patron. 

If one were to judge by these legends, Christianity seems not 
to have moderated, but rather to have added zest to the com- 
bativeness of the saints and Irish chiefs ; yet if the accretions 
could be separated from the truth, and the ornamentations in 
the narratives of the early Irish saints removed, the morals in- 
tended to be conveyed might become apparent. One must con- 
cede a certain amount of respect to this attempt to paganize 
Christianity ; the pagans had at any rate antiquity on their side, 
and their gods and goddesses were certainly more life-like than 
the saints and saintesses, the anchorites and stylites of monastic 
Christianity : — 

"... Great God! I'd rather be 
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn ; 
So might I standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn ; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea, 
And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn." 

Popular writers generally represent St. Patrick as " a worker 
of miracles, most of them of a childish and absurd character. 
There may be some who believe them," remarks the Eev. 
Thomas Olden, " or rather think they believe them ; but the 
effect in most cases is to cause the rejection of his entire his- 
tory." Even O'Donovan, in a note in his translation of the 
Annals of the Four Mantern, observes on this subject: — "The 
absurdity of the miracles attributed to St. Patrick, by all his 
biographers, on every frivolous occasion, without number, 
measure, or use, has created a doubt in modern times of the 
truth of everything they relate." Thus, continues Olden : — 
" He curses rivers, territories, families, and individuals for most 
trivial causes ; and, for the same reasons, prophesies evil to 
people, though fortunately the fulfilment does not often follow." 

St. Patrick makes the kid bleat in the stomach of the man 
who had stolen and eaten it, and afterwards returns it to its 
owner uninjured : he lights a fire with icicles, instead of sticks, 
whilst water congeals in the kettle despite the fire around it. 
These stories are, however, quite paralleled by that recounted of 
St. Bridget's bacon, which in great charity she gave to a hungry- 
dog, and which was, after the dog had eaten it, restored again. 


to the pot ; by that of St. Dunstan who held the devil by the 
nose with a heated tongs till he made him roar ; of Dominicus 
who made him hold a candle till he burnt his fingers ; and of 
Lapus who imprisoned him in a pot all night. 

In the mediaeval lives of St. Patrick, the national saint is 
depicted as cursing and anathematising all and singular who did 
not do exactly what he wanted ; but one can yet catch, through 
this modern religious mask, glimpses of the good-humoured 
character of the missionary ; for, although his history has been 
written with the best intentions, St. Patrick has had to suffer 
much at the hands of his biographers. Many violent and vin- 
dictive deeds are laid to his charge, but he certainly would never 
have bad the credit, at any rate, of. turning such numbers into 
the ways of Christianity, as well as of filling such an important 
niche in Church history, had he been the hot-headed, passion- 
ate man painted by his legendary biographers. The anecdote 
which demonstrates that he could, like St. Paul, forgive his 
hearers falling asleep under the flow of his rhetoric demon- 
strates this ; for what cleric can forgive the peaceful slumber of 
his parishioner ? what author the admission of a friend that he 
is ignorant of his latest work ? St. Patrick, however, surpassed 
St. Paul's record, for he, on one occasion, delivered a sermon to 
a devout Irish congregation, which lasted four days and four 
nights. Among his hearers was " that mother of religious 
activity and thorough woman of business, St. Bridget. Among 
his hearers ? Yes ; but only as Eutychus was among those of 
Paul. Before the sun had gone down once on the preacher, 
Bridget, worn out by her virtuous activity, was fast asleep, and 
a compassionate miracle kept her so, till the sermon came to its 
conclusion. When the devout maid awoke, she looked up at 
Patrick and blushed. The Scoto-Irish apostle looked down on 
Bridget and smiled. She excused herself by a hint that she had 
yielded only to supernatural influences, for she had an allegorical 
dream which was as good as a sermon, and which she described 
at a length almost equal to that of the discourse under which 
she had succumbed." Whether St. Patrick compared her dream 
with his oration, or her freshness with the prostration of his 
congregation, is not narrated, but he confessed that the sleeper 
had known a greater enjoyment than his listeners. 

Another story, illustrative of the Saint's good nature, may be 
Ljiven. The Mayo peasantry account for the excellent feeding 
properties of some of the bogs and wastes of various descrip- 
tions with which their country is almost entirely covered, 
and which present a brown and desolate appearance, by the 
legend that St. Patrick, viewing them from afar, when on one 
of his missionary tours, struck by their forlorn look, exclaimed, 


"I'll bless you any way, but sorrah a foot ever I'll set upon 

This, of course, is only popular tradition, so it may be well 
to give an extract from the Septima Vita, lib. ii., Colgan, Trias. 
Thaum, p. 140,. xcviii, in which it is gravely narrated that 
St. Patrick blessed a river on account of the good dinner he 
had procured from it. 

" Going on his journey by the seashore of northern Con- 
naught, Patrick came to a river called Sligo. There he wished 
to refresh his wearied body. He asked the fishermen to spread 
their nets wherever they pleased, and by the aid of their art, to 
provide some fish for a meal, by which he might relieve the 
present need of his body.- They answered that although it 
seemed difficult in winter, yet in return for the favour of having 
such a guest, they would like to try it. They cast their net 
and caught a large salmon, which with great joy they brought to 
the man of God. He thanked them for their kind attention. 
He prayed for a blessing on them, and he blessed the river 
praying, and whilst praying foretelling that fish would never fail 
in the river.. The actual state of affairs has always afforded 
proof of his prophecy, for ever since that time the river so 
abounds in salmon, that in every time of the year fresh salmon 
are found in it." As a matter of fact, salmon run all the year 
round in the Sligo river. This evidently gave rise to the story 
of the saint's blessing. 

Events regarded by our ancestors as miracles were often but 
very ordinary displays of nature. Thus, when the Bishop of 
Derry and Kaphoe died in the year 1173, it is stated that " a 
great miracle was performed on the night of his death, viz., the 
dark night became bright from dusk till morning, and it appeared 
to the inhabitants that the adjacent parts of the globe were 
illuminated, and a large body of fire moved over the town and 
remained in the south-east ; all the people rose from their beds, 
for they thought it was day, it (the light) continued so eastward 
along the sea." This so-called " miracle " was evidently a very 
fine effect produced by the aurora borealis or northern lights. 
Numerous other miraculous or alleged miraculous occurrences 
are recounted in the Irish Annals. 

We feel less charitably inclined towards those who believe 
but half what we believe, than towards those that deny all 
that we profess. Enthusiasts with zeal without knowledge, and 
devotion without discretion, who gravely defend these invented— 
and very badly invented — miracles, have injured the cause of 
Christianity as much as, if not indeed more than, the attack of 
modern scientific writers. 

It is traditionally recounted that St. Patrick met St. Kieran 


for the first time, in a.d. 489, at the Church of Eath-Kieran, 
in Iverk, county Kilkenny. St. Kieran did not acknowledge 
St. Patrick's superiority, and refused to be dictated to by him 
in ecclesiastical matters. St. Patrick displeased, predicted that 
the inhabitants of Iverk should always remain Dunutunts, and be 
called by this name. A similar story is told of St. Ibar, at 
Beggery, in the harbour of Wexford. 

St. Patrick, travelling through the plains of Ossory, to see 
what progress St. Kieran had made in the conversion of the 
inhabitants, remarks O'Donovan, " came to a remarkable hill, 
then called, i.e. hill of the sights or views, which 
commanded a prospect, wide and varied, of the adjacent rivers, 
harbours, and mountains ; and being struck with the beauty of 
the situation, he resolved upon building a church there, or, as 
some say, a town. He set to work, and collected a number of 
labourers and artisans to the place. While the work was pro- 
gressing, a woman who lived in the adjacent village of Ballincrea, 
sent St. Patrick a present of an animal cooked in a dish for his 
dinner. After the saint had viewed the animal for some time, he 
formed an idea in his mind that it was an unclean beast, and did 
not wish to taste of its flesh ; and, moreover, as he found some of 
the inhabitants of the district but ill instructed in Christianity, 
and others stubborn pagans, he conceived the idea that this 
present was sent with a view to insult him. So, laying down 
the dish upon a large stone, he knelt down upon the same stone, 
and prayed to God to restore to life whatever animal was there 
cooked. His prayer was heard, and to the astonishment of the 
workmen, a coin rSuioe (yellow hound) sprang from the dish, and 
ran in the direction of the conflux of the Three Waters. St. 
Patrick, horrified at the sight, desired the workmen to go in pur- 
suit of it, and kill it, for that it would blast the fruits of the earth 
and injure all living things in its course. The workmen, obeying 
the saint's orders, followed the yellow hound with spades, pick- 
axes, shovels and crowbars, and overtook it exactly a mile to the 
east of the place from whence it started, and succeeded in killing 
it. They buried its body on the roadside, and over its grave 
sprang up a stunted white thorn, called S^eicfn-iHi-ccm (the little 
thorn of the hound), which remains to the present day; and, 
in perpetual memorial of the miracle, all the stones for one 
mile exhibit the tracks of the hound's feet; and that on which 
St. Patrick knelt contains a hollow, which is believed to 
be the impression of his knee, and is called Glim 1'luuhttitj. 
This hollow is usually filled with water, which is considered 

" The saint maledicted the wicked woman and her progeny. 


and prayed that the village of Ballincrea should never, through- 
out all time, be without a lame, or a dumb, or a deaf person. 
His prayer was granted, and the tradition is, that its effects 
remain to the present day, for the inhabitants are remarkable 
for indocility and viciousness, and for a total incapability of civi- 
lization ! " 

" Nothing but the absence of the sacred muse from the 
locality prevented this story from getting into the ' Tripartite 
Life of St. Patrick,' for I firmly believe," remarks O'Donovan, 
" that it is as old, and perhaps as true as many others which 
Colgan has adjudged as interpolations into that celebrated work." 
In very similar manner the name of St. Patrick is connected in 
popular legend with Coney Island, not far from the town of 
Sligo. St. Patrick, when on one of his missionary tours, resided 
for some time on the island, and observing the need of a safe 
communication with the mainland, commenced a causeway, 
which was to connect it with Strand Hill. He sent a messenger 
to his hostess, a woman named Stoney, i.e. Mulclohy (hence the 
ancient name of Coney Island, i.e. Inismulclohy), to cook a 
rabbit for his dinner. When, however, the saint sat down, pro- 
nouncing a blessing on the food, a gigantic cat jumped up off the 
platter set before him. It would seem that his hostess, not 
having a rabbit in readiness, substituted a fine specimen of the 
feline tribe. St. Patrick was so disgusted at this treatment, that 
he never resumed his work, and his ante-dinner labour is now 
represented by the small island styled Doonanpatrick. On taking 
his departure, instead of leaving a blessing on the islanders, he 
prayed that there might never be four of the name of Stoney alive 
at the same time to carry the remains of one of their relations 
to the grave. " The story of Boher-na-mias, in the county of 
Clare, is not unlike it ; but a legend exactly similar is tola of 
St. Patrick in the uncultivated mountains of Sliabh-Chairbre, in 
the townland of Aughnacon, parish of Killoe, barony of Granard, 
and county of Longford, where the saint's preaching was opposed 
by the impious Carbry, the brother of the monarch Laeghaire, 
son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. The saint's awful curse 
against the district and the people is preserved in the following 
lines (here translated by O'Donovan from the Irish) obtained at 
Granard and at Ballynamuck, in the year 1836 : — 

" Accursed be Carbry's rugged mountains, 
AVherein tbis hound was served to me, 
Acciu'sed its heaths, its streams and fountains, 

As long as man and time shall be. 
Accursed its glens ; may no kind showers 
Descend into them from the skies ; 


May neither grass, nor herbs, nor flowers, 

Be ever seen in them to rise ! 
Accursed the people, now I strike them 

With my red bolt, and seal their doom ; 
May all good men for e'er dislike them, 

May they sink in murkiest gloom." 

"The 'Tripartite Life' is very meagre in its details of the 
transactions of the Irish Apostle in the ancient Ossory, but I 
have been long of opinion that the want might be supplied, to 
some extent, from oral traditions. Take another story of St. 
Patrick, which was very current when I was a boy living in Ida, 
and fond of all sorts of ghost stories and fairy scenes, which had 
no foundation except in the imaginations of old men and women. 
St. Patrick, proceeding from Laoighis into the adjoining territory 
of Ui-Duach in Ossory, commenced the erection of a church at a 
remarkable place near the banks of the river Dineen ; but he was 
insulted by the chief of this territory, who forcibly drove him 
from that beautiful locality. Patrick, who appears to have been 
a man of great force of character, had no notion to allow this 
insult to pass unrevenged ; and he proceeded to hurl the red bolt 
of his malediction against the chief of Ui-Duach and his descen- 
dants. He opened his sacred lips to curse the territory, and 
pronounced the words ITIaUuigim, malluigim Ui t)uac (I curse, 
I curse Ui t)uach). But one of his disciples, who was related to 
the noble family of Ui-Duach, with a view to avert the curse 
from the territory and the people, added immediately after, 
(>fou pin an ofon a 5-cnmio (let that curse be upon the thatch 
of their corn-ricks). This rhyme, it appears, was sufficient to 
avert the curse, so far as it was pronounced by St. Patrick ; but 
his anger was not yet appeased, and he opened his lips again to 
curse the territory, saying, lllallwgim, malluigim Ui-Ouac. The 
disciple added, bfoo pin an bapp na Luaopa (let that be on the 
tops of the rushes). The saint's anger was still up, and he com- 
menced his curse a third time, saying lllullmgim, malluigim 
U i-Ouac, and the disciple averted it once more from the lands and 
the people by adding, bfo6 pin ap an t)ei5gnin pua6 (let this be 
on the red Dineen), St. Patrick, seeing the counteracting lines 
of his disciple so opportunely added after his own maledicting 
ones, felt his anger subsiding, and believing that his disciple was 
inspired by heaven thus to save his native territory from a heavy 
malediction, left the matter so. And behold ! the effects of the 
three curses, thus modified, still remain wonderfully plain in the 
territory of Ui-Duach. TBe thatch of the stacks and the hay-ricks 
is there most furiously assailed and stripped by the winds ; the 
tops of the rushes exhibit all the withering influence of the curse ; 



and the river Dineen, which has deserved for itself the soubriquet 
of ' the red and deceitful Dineen,' is so subject to sudden floods 
and inundations as to sweep away not only men, cattle, and 
corn, but also the churchyards which lie within the reach of its 

In his Acta Sanctorum, Colgan gives a series of miracles which 
eclipse those recounted of St. Patrick. Amongst others he relates 
that St. Cronan requested a certain scribe, named Dimrna, to 
make a transcript of the Four Evangelists, but the copyist was 
only willing to work nine hours a day. In fact, he seems to have 
been on strike ; but a compromise was effected, and he promised 
to write until the sun went down. St. Cronan then caused the 
solar rays to shine continuously for forty days and forty nights ; 
and neither was the writer fatigued with the continual labour, 
nor did he feel the want of food, or drink, or sleep, but imagined 
the forty days and nights were but one day, until he had com- 
pleted his task. Colgan, with honest simplicity, thought Dimma 
ought to divide the credit of the miracle with St. Cronan, as both 
had an equal share in the memorable performance. 

The Irish mss. of the lives of the early saints, like the so- 
called historical romances, were "treated as a sort of common 
land upon which any goose might graze," subsequent copyists 
inserting passages by which the character of the documents was 
changed, yet many traits of stoical heroism have, apparently 
quite unintentionally, been allowed to remain, in which the old 
pagan heroes are depicted as regarding courage as one of the 
noblest of virtues, and victory the highest glory. "Shall I 
pray that the chieftainship may never depart from your race, 
or that your soul may find rest in heaven?" demanded St. 
Bridget of an Irish chief, The prompt reply of the warrior 
was characteristic of his time. "I care not for heaven, of 
which I know nothing ; but give me victory over my enemies." 
St. Patrick, on the eve of a battle, is reputed to have given an 
Irish king the choice of two things, defeat and heaven, victory 
or hell, and received the emphatic answer: "Hell to all eternity, 
so that the victory be mine." 

These stories have in them the true heroic ring, and it is 
to be wondered how they escaped the clerical bill-hook. Thev 
remind us of the legend of the old Viking, who, after great per- 
suasion, had been at length induced to accept baptism. The aged 
warrior was in the act of stepping into the font when he inquired 
of his would-be baptizer, where were the souls of his ancestors ? 
" In hell," was the injudicious reply of the priest. The old sea- 
dog drew back, and folding his mantle around him, said he would 
go to his own kith and kin. Let us hope he had his wish, and 
joined them. 


There was a ferociously savage custom in full vigour, as late 
as two hundred years ago. People on presenting infants to be 
baptized, reserved, from the sanctification of the rite, the right 
arms of male children ; for it was thought that the boys, when 
they reached manhood, would be able to give a more malignant 
blow with an unblessed, than with a blessed arm. This custom 
must have originated at a time when Christianity first sought 
" to make children of grace out of children of wrath." 

A perusal of the so-called "Lives" of the early Irish saints 
brings before the reader, in a striking manner, the survival of 
pagan institutions under Christian names and forms. As on the 
Continent, the Christian Church first planted itself in centres of 
intelligence, in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire ; 
whilst long after these had accepted the truth, heathen super- 
stitions lingered on in remote districts ; so in Ireland also, the 
first conquests of the Church were effected in the centres of intel- 
ligence, the Court of the Head King, the fortresses of provincial 
chiefs, or the seats of commercial traffic ; outside this sphere of 
influence, paganism, for many centuries, must have continued to 
visibly exist. 

Many examples can be quoted from ancient mss. of the resig- 
nation of cashels and forts by their pagan owners for the use of 
Christian communities, notably one occurring in the life of St. 
Cuillin, where it is stated that the chief of the country of Breffny, 
or the present county Leitrim, on his conversion to Christianity 
by the saint, gave up to him his fortress, in order that he might 
erect his monastic buildings within the enclosure. Indeed, in 
many instances, groups of religious buildings stand within for- 
tresses of the greatest celebrity, as within the grand stone fort on 
the Island of Aran, and within the walls of a cashel on the Island 
of Inishmurray, off the coast of Sligo. 

It is remarkable how in different countries many ancient 
centres of Druidical cult survived into Christian times, their 
accustomed ceremonies being converted into Christian rites. 
For example, Chartres, about half way between Orleans and 
Paris, possesses, according to a pamphlet bearing the imprimatur 
of f$i Vranrinewt I'lpiscojnis Ofirnutt'iisis — the sanctuary of Notrr 
Dame lie Sum-Terre ou la Vienju ilruidique, dating, according to 
the above authority, before the birth of Christ. Then after 
stating that the surrounding district was a great centre for 
Druidical assemblies, it continues: — "However that may have 
been, they say that, before the Incarnation, they worshipped 
a rudely carved wooden image, which stood at the end of a 
mysterious grotto, representing the Virgin Mary seated, with 
closed eyes, holding the Divine Infant on her lap. This tradi- 
tion, which reaches back to the most remote antiquity, is even 



recited in the Charters of the kings of France."* Fides sit penes 

""Turning to other authorities, it is evident that Chartres was 
really a Druidic centre. After describing how the Roman Empire 
proscribed most impartially on political grounds both Chnstians 
tod Druids, Ramsey, in his Church of the Roman Lmpue states 
that " the institution of the Gallic festival in the purely Roman 
Capitol ... was evidently a countermove of the Government 
against the old religion of the country, with its council of priests 
at Chartres, the centre of the Gallic land." 

Fig. 82. 

Interior of" the Church of the Fire" {7\'ach-na-Teinedh\, showing in the foreground the 
position of " the Flagstone of the Fire." Reproduced from the Journal of the present 
Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

*•* * " Quoi qu'il en soit, Ton dit qu'avnnt l'lncarnation ils honoraient, au fond 
d'une TOtte liiysteiieuse, writs statue en rjois assez prossierernent seulptee repre- 
sentant la Viergo Marie assise, les yeux fernies, et tenant suv ses genoux son 
divin Knfimt. Cette tradition qui remonte aux sieeles les plus lointains se 
retrouve jusquo dans les lettrcs des rois de Fiance." — Sulrt JJamc de Clmrtm, 
p. 3. 


The " splenetic Welshman," as Giraldus is styled by some 
Irish writers, draws attention to instances of the gradual but 
steady transition of the Irish population from the profession of 
Paganism to that of Christianity, and remarks that " not one was 
found to purple with his blood the foundations of the rising 
Church." Patriotic writers, in essaying to confute Giraldus, 
instead of studying the social and religious state of the country 
at the period of St. Patrick's advent, have endeavoured to invent 
a few martyrs to throw discredit on a statement which, to all 
intents, is correct. 

The ancient Pagan sacred fires were occasionally taken under 
the guardianship of the new Christian communities. Giraldus 
Cambrensis reports the common belief, in his day, that the sacred 
fire of St. Bridget at Kildare, which the Druids had guarded long 
before the introduction of Christianity, had never been extin- 

In the Church of Teach-na-Teinedb, or " the church of the 
fire " (fig. 82), one of many remains of early Christian architecture, 
within the walls of a Pagan Cashel 
situated on the island of Inishmurray, 
off the Sligo coast, there was formerly 
a remarkable flagstone styled Lenr- 
n<i-'l'cini'illi, or "the flagstone of the 
fire" (fig. 83). Until lately it covered 
a miraculous hearth — broken up by 
the officials of the Board of Works 
during their usual routine of " resto- 
ration," — only the foundations of 
which still remain. On this flag, or 
fire-stone, fire was always kept burn- «>«j. 

ing by the monks for the use of the p 83 

islanders. In later times, when monks ., ■ rhc Vhli;M „ m . of th " e i.- iro » u . eac . 
no longer inhabited the cashel, when- na-i>,„,;iii\. Reproduced tv.™ 

°. i i t j t i ■ iv the Journal of the present So- 

ever a householder wanted kindling ciety of Antiquaries of Ireland. 

for the family fire, a sod of turf or a 

piece of wood deposited on this holy hearth ignited spon- 
taneously. Not many years ago, if any dependence can be 
placed on oral tradition, a Scotchman had the profane assur- 
ance, whilst visiting the island, to desecrate the sacred firestone 
of St. Malaise. Though generally reputed to be of placid tem- 
perament, the insulted saint and patron of the island implored 
his God to work a miracle for the confusion of the impious 
miscreant, whereupon a supernatural flame, issuing ironi the 
"fire-stone," reduced the wretch to a cinder, and the islanders 
still point out his calcined bones, deposited on the site cf the 
hearthstone, as a warning to unbelievers. 

280 A D J "ENT OF ST. PA 7 RICK. 

In the observances relating to fire, both as regards human 
beings as well as cattle, the ceremonies — particularly that of 
passing between two fires — appear in later times to have been 
intended not to sacrifice life, but merely as a means of periodical 
purification. For instance, Ledwick states that in his time " the 
more ignorant Irish still drive their cattle through these fires as 
an effectual means of preserving them from future accidents."* 
But at an earlier period it is but too certain that the sacrifice of 
human beings by fire formed a part of Pagan worship in Ireland, 
of which passing through or between two fires was a eucharistic 

The remains of the fires were regarded with superstitious 
veneration — a small piece of charcoal, taken from the site of a 
bonfire on St. John's night, in midsummer, and sewed up in the 
clothes of a woman, preserves her against fairy plots, or from 
abduction by the "good people"; whilst a live coal is con- 
sidered to bring great luck to the house in which it ignites the 
new fire on the family hearth. 

It is probable that the Druids consecrated water as well as 
fire, on the eve of Bealtinne, i.e. the 1st of May, and possibly 
they also prohibited its use, except when drawn from their own 
sacred fountains. This assumption arises from the special rever- 
ence in which certain springs and rude fonts were held. In 
some instances women were prohibited from ever drawing water 
from them ; and, until a comparatively late period, it was custo- 
mary not to draw the first water from wells till after midnight, 
on the eve of Bealtinne. This water was called " the purity of 
the well," and is indubitably a relic of paganism. The people 
of each village were in the habit of sitting up, that they might 
be the first to draw a pitcher of water from the nearest holy 
well ; and as it was considered that the water should be drawn 

* " Two such fires as we have mentioned were kindl'd hy one another on May 
Eve in every village of the nation (as well thro' out Gaule as in Britain, Ireland, 
and the adjoining lesser Hands), between which fires the men and the beasts to 
be sacrific'd were to pass ; from whence came the proverb, between Bel's two 
fires, meaning one in a great strait, hot knowing how to extricate himself. One 
of the' fires was on the earn, another on the ground. On the eve of the first day 
of November there were also such fires kindl'd, accompany'd (as they constantly 
were) with sacrifices and feasting. These November tires were in Ireland called 
Tine tlacK d-tjha, from tlnch' ' d-gha, a place hence so called in Meath, where the 
Archdruid of the realm had his fire oh the said eve ; and for which piece of 
ground, because originally belonging to Minister, but appointed by the supreme 
monarch for this use, there was an annual acknowledgment (call'd sgreaboll) 
paid to the king of that province. ... On the foresaid eve all the people of the 
country, out of a religious persuasion instilled into them by "the Druids, 
extinguish'd their fires as intirely as the Jews are wont to sweep their houses 
the night before the feast of unleavened bread. Then every master of a family 


furtively, many stratagems were devised to outwit the neighbours 
in procuring the earliest draught, or " purity of the well." 
Whoever succeeded in being the first to reach the spring, cast a 
tuft of grass into the water by which all subsequent arrivals 
were apprised that the spell was broken. This draught of water, 
carefully preserved during the year, was regarded as a powerful 
charm against witchcraft. It was used at the eve of Bealtinne 
in the succeeding year for another ceremony in which farmers, 
accompanied by all their household, walked round the boundaries 
of their land, after sunset, in a sort of procession, carrying imple- 
ments of husbandry, seeds, &c, and this water. The procession 
halted when passing each of the cardinal points, commencing at 
the east, and various ceremonies were observed. All the cattle 
were then driven together and their tails examined, lest a witch 
might thereon have tied some spell ; if anything were found 
attached, it was at once taken off and burned, and a sprig of 
rowan substituted. The ceremony was completed by sprinkling 
the assembled cattle with the water which had been preserved 
since the preceding May Day. 

In some localities, cattle, either as a preservative against, 
or a cure of disease, were driven through certain bays, in- 
lets, or streams ; for instance, near the village of Culdaff, 
county Donegal, there " is a deep part of the river, into which 
it is usual to plunge diseased cattle, and at the same time 
to pray to St. Bodhan, who is supposed to intercede in their 

In a Statist/till ruriiuitt uf the parish of Ctoiimani/, county 
Donegal, by the Rev. F. L. Molloy, written in the year 1814, he 
states that on the 9th June, on the festival day of St. Columb- 
kille, the country people " formerly drove down their cattle to 
the beach on that day, and swam them in that part of the sea 

was religiously oblig'd to tnke a portion of the consecrated fire home, and to 
kindle the tire anew in his house, which for the ensuing year was to be lucky 
and prosperous. He was to pay, however, for his future happiness, whether the 
event prov'd answerable or not ; and tho' his house should lie afterwards burnt, 
yet he must deem it the punishment of some new sin, or ascribe it to any thing 
lather than to want of viitue in the consecration of the fire, or of validity in 
the benediction of the Druid, who, from officiating at the earns, was likewise 
called CMineaeh, a name that continued to signify a priest, even in the Christian 
times. But if any ninn had not clear'd with the Druids for the last year's dues, 
he was neither to have a spark of this holy fire from the earns, nor durst any of 
his neighbours let him take the benefit of theirs, under pain of excommunica- 
tion, which, as nianag'd by the Druids, was worse than death. If be wou'd 
brew, therefore, or bake, or roast, or boil, or warm himself and family ; in a 
word, if he would live tho winter out, the Druids' dues must be paid by 
the end of October." — Tolund's History of the Druids, new edition, 1814, 
pp. 117-119. 


into which runs the water of St. Columb's well, which is thereby 
made holy water." 

In the west of Ireland cows are also driven into certain 
springs or loughs, reputed holy, in order to restore them to 
health, or to make them again yield the usual supply of milk 
and butter, supernaturally extracted from them by the fairies. 
As a necessary part of the ceremony, lumps of fresh butter are 
thrown into the water through which the animals pass. The 
ceremony of swimming cattle as a cure for disease used to 
take place on the first Sunday in harvest, i.e. on Garland 

On the last day of April of each year, persons residing at a 
distance journey to a holy well where a large " patron " is held 
on May day. The well lies at the foot of " The Paps," two re- 
markable mountains which derive their name from their peculiar 
shape, and form a striking feature in the mountain scenery 
between Killarney and Cork. The pilgrims trudge to their 
destination, where having performed their devotions, they take 
away some water from the well in bottles for home consumption. 
The manner of using this water is peculiar. The operator — 
generally the person who performs the pilgrimage — commences 
first with the oldest cow in the byre, after which he takes the 
youngest, then the others are treated indiscriminately. He lets 
fall three drops of the holy water into the cow's right nostril, 
then three drops into the right ear, and then three into the 
mouth, at the same time repeating certain formula. Cattle so 
treated are considered by the country people to be impervious to 
all disease. 

A description of an ancient pagan water rite occurs in an 
Irish mss. entitled, Leabhar na h-Cidhre. A Druid commanded 
a child to be washed every morning, with many attendant cere- 
monies, on the back of a cow 1 . At the end of twelve months the 
cow, with the boy on its back, suddenly leaped into the sea, and 
Was immediately changed into a rock ; the child, however, by this 
time cleansed from the stain and disgrace of his birth, was un- 
injured, and finally rose to great eminence. 

In souterrains, in the large interior chambers of cams, 
and around the sites of primitive churches, rude shallow stone 
basins may be often observed. Whether the hollows were 
used for containing the ashes of the dead — for instances are on 
record in which ashes and calcined bones have been found in 
them when first discovered — for holding water, or some other 
offering to the manes of the departed is not clear ; but one thing 
is certain, whatever their original use may have been, they, in 
many cases, were sanctified to the new religion, and utilized by 
the early missionaries, probably as baptismal fonts. 


Not far from Dungiven, county Derry, there is a holy well 
much frequented, and the stone round which the penitents used 
to go after performing the ceremonies at the well, is in the river. 
Near Claudy, in the same county, there is a pool in the stream 
below Kilgort Bridge, called Turish Lyn. Many country people 
yet believe that immersion in the water is a cure for all manner 
of diseases. On May eve the devotees bathe in the pool, and the 
offerings tied to the bush overhanging the "lyn," vary from a 
piece of cloth to a lock of hair. Sometimes small white stones, 
picked up from the pool, are deposited on the bank. 

In the townland of Drumlighan, parish of Decies-without- 
Drum, county Waterford, a rudely formed fence marks the 
area of an ancient pagan burial ground. There is no tradition 
of any interments having taken place in it within living memory ; 
but though devoid of Christian relics or associations, the enclosure 
is carefully preserved and guarded with superstitious veneration. 
Close to the fence, on the north side of the old grave yard, there 
lies a flat stone, its surface level with the green sward. In this 
stone there is an artificial cavity, about six inches in diameter, 
and six inches deep, usually filled with water, and containing a 
quantity of votive offerings in the shape of buttons, pebbles, 
pins, needles, and berries dropped into it by persons frequenting 
the place ; for sufferers come from a considerable distance, and 
use the water as a cure for various skin diseases, especially for 
polypi and warts. The peasantry affirm that this cavity, or 
"well," as they style this hollowed stone, is never without water 
in the driest summer, and that it never freezes during the hardest 

This idea of the curative property of water contained in a 
depression in a rock, has been so amplified, by current super- 
stition, that if a peasant sees a little water retained in the hollow 
of any curiously formed stone, he will, if so afflicted, wash the 
wart or polypus in it three times, and it will, he believes, 
gradually dwindle away. 

The celebration of the old ceremony, performed by the 
Mayor of Cork, who takes possession of the Lee by the act of 
throwing a dart into the sea near the river's mouth, probably 
owes its origin to some ancient water rite practised by the 
Druids of Pagan Ireland. The marriage which Venice annually 
celebrated with the Adriatic is a world-wide known example of a 
water rite. 

The pagans had thus evidently two rites of purification, 
the one by fire, the other by water. An important rite of the 
Druidical priesthood was purification of the postulant ; so both 
elements were enlisted in furtherance of that end. Fire was 
probably the sacred symbol of annihilatory purification ; whilst 


water may have been regarded as emblematic of the purification 
attainable in ordinary and everyday life ; for these old-world 
wise men were most probably well acquainted with the fact 
that the ancient history of the globe is written by fire and by 
water* but the life which it supports by water alone. The earth 
they doubtless regarded as the great power that produces all 
things, from which all life springs* and to which all life returns. 
In nothing is the idea more noticeable than in the numerous 
charms and superstitious observances still in use amongst the 
peasantry with regard to the burying of objects, animate or inani- 
mate, in mother earth. 



Pagan AV i-iters on the Cannibalism of the Irish — Corroborated by St. Jerome and 
others — Cannibalism and Human Sacrifices may exist with a high state of 
civilization — St. Patrick's allusion to Human Sacrifice — Notice in the Dinn- 
senchus — Cannibalism still prevalent in Polynesia, Australia, and Africa — 
Belief that thephysical and mental qualities of man were intimately connei ted 
with his Food — Eating deceased relatives and adversaries perpetuated the 
physical and mental virtues of the dead in the tribe — Irish Wakes— A 
eucbaristic Cannibal Feast — Various Superstitions relating to the Dead — The 
Dead even yet figuratively as well as actually eaten — Ritual and Ceremonies 
at Wakes — At ancient Burials, as given in Irish mss. — Human Sacrifices in 
Pagan and in Christian times — Cremation — The Keener — Various Examples 
of Keens — Plays and Games at Wakes — Pagan Burial Places still used — The 
Funeral — Barbarities practised in ancient times on the Dead — The counting 
of Heads, &o. — Funeral feasts — The custom of plating differently-coloured 
Stones with the Dead — Their probable Significance — Various Modes of 
Sepulture — Inhumation — Cremation — Irrefutable Evidence of Cannibalism 
presented by human Osseous Remains. 

" Whatever degree of civilization the ancient Irish had attained 
before their reception of Christianity," remarks the well-known 
Irish scholar, O'Donovan, "there is no nation in Europe of 
which a more barbarous character has been drawn by Pagan 
writers of the first century. These writers, it has been urged by 
those who deny the civilization of the Pagan Irish, had no motive 
for misrepresenting the Pagan inhabitants of Ierne or Hibernia ; 
and it has been inferred that these ante-Christian writers stated 
what was actually true, or what they believed to be true, although 
they had never been in Ireland." Previous to the first century a 
diametrically opposite idea of the civilization of Erin appears to 
have prevailed among early classic writers (provided always that 
Ireland be identified with one of the isles of the Hesperides) ; and 
it is a curious subject for speculation to determine why their 
opinion of the character of the inhabitants became so suddenly 
changed. In the first instance did " distance lend enchantment 
to the view," or, at a later period, did "familiarity breed con- 
tempt" ? 

Bede writes as follows : — " In course of time, Britain, besides 


the Britons and Piots, received a third nation, the Scoti, who, 
issuing from Hibernia under the leadership of Reuda, secured for 
themselves, either by friendship or by the sword, settlements 
among the Picts, which they still possess." This tenacity of the 
race in retaining firm possession of what they at any time seized, 
is exemplified in the modern rather uncomplimentary definition 
of a Scotsman, as " one who keeps the Sabbath and everything 
else he can lay hands on." 

Ireland and the north of Scotland, at this early period, were 
regarded, as well by their inhabitants as by strangers, as one 
territory, and the population passed freely from one island to the 
other at a time when race, not territory, was the great bond of 
association. Hence it came that deeds and memories of a great 
warrior race belong equally to both countries ; each had its songs 
and its legends about the self-same heroes, each had its local 
names taken from the same mythology. 

Thus the designation Scoti, at an early period, means Irish- 
men, and on this subject some curious mistakes have been made. 
Dempster, when writing his Menologium Sanctorum Scotorum, 
took for granted that Scotia meant Scotland, and he transferred 
to Caledonia the greater part of that noble army of confessors of 
whom Erin is justly proud. For this theft Dempster was nick- 
named Ragiokleptes, or the " Saint-stealer." That the name 
Scotia was originally applied to Ireland, and that the Irish were 
styled Scoti, or Scots, is a fact so well known as to need no 
more proof than a mere reference to Bede's writings. Adamnan, 
also, in his life of St. Columbkille, uses the terms Hibernia and 
Scotia synonymously. The saint ordered one of his monks to go 
" on a commission to Scotia," and informed his messenger that 
when " you arrive in Hibernia you shall find a man coming to 
meet you, from a distance, who will be the first to seize the prow 
of your ship in Scotia ; he will accompany you in your journey, 
for some time in Hibernia." 

Swift thus alludes to the same subject in poetic numbers : — 

' ' From thee, with pride, the Caledonians trace 
The glorious founder of their Hngly race. 
Thy martial sons, whom now they dare despise, 
Bid once their land suhdue and civilize. 
Their dress, their language, and their Scottish name 
Confess the soil from whence the victors came. 
Well may they hoast that ancient blood that runs 
Within theirveius, who are the younger sons." 

The accounts given by the Pagan writers, Diodorus,* Strabo.f 

^ tpaa\ Tivas avdp&nous 4<r0iew Sxrirep Kal top Bperrav&v Toi/s KaroiKOVvras 
tV bvop.a£oixivriv" l lptv (qu. , lipvr]v). — (Diodoiuts, v. 32). 

t wepl ^s (so. 'lipvrjs) oMic ix /**" bJyav <ra<p^s tt\))v Sti aypii&repoi riiv 
BpeTTav&v bir&pxov&w oi KaroiKovvres avT^v, audpanrotpiiyoi t€ Byres kal no\v- 


Pomponius Mela,* and 8olinus,f of the alleged cannibalism of 
the Irish, or Scoti, of their day, are corroborated by St. Jerome, 
who lived from about a.d. 329 to 420. The passage occurs in a 
controversial book which was written by him. Some writers, 
.shocked at the narrative, try to evade its force by observing that 
Csesar, and other standard authorities, make no similar state- 
ments ; but, if Jerome's assertion is false, we might fairly expect to 
find it contradicted at the time, especially as the Scots are alleged, 
by their later historians, to have possessed literature much in ad- 
vance of the age, and many able writers. Dr. O'Connor, in his 
I'mlixjomena, goes so far as to assert that this Father of the Church 
is, in the case in question, not worthy of belief, as " he was a man 
■of very fervid temper, even at an advanced age, for he asserts 
that he was flogged by an angel because he had read Cicero." 
That he may be accepted, with certain reservations, it may be 
presumed, as a theologian but not as a historiographer. Classic 
writers are vituperated for reciting such tales ; but Keating, the 
" father of apocryphal Irish history," who recounts a revolting 
story of a young girl being reared upon human flesh, is allowed 
to escape criticism. 

In the fourth century the principal food of the Irish seems to 
have been " stirabout" ; and St. Jerome apparently had as great 
abhorrence of stirabout as of heresy, for, when writing against two 
theological opponents, he describes the one as " over-fatted with 
Scottish stirabout, and. the other a huge and corpulent dog — one 
better qualified to argue with kicks than words — for he derives 
his origin from the Scotic nation in the neighbourhood of 
Britain." The saint seems not to love the Scots (i.e. Irish), and 
in his eyes the eating of stirabout is on a par with the eating of 
human ilesh, which he describes in emphatic words: — "What 
shall I say of other nations, when I myself, when a youth in 
Gaul, saw the Scoti (or Atticotti), a race of Britons, eating human 
fk'sh ; and, although in the forests they have herds of swine and 
herds of cattle, they are accustomed paxtonim mites cl feminttrum, 
et papillux alixcintli'ir, ft fax xolax cihnrum ih'lifiax urbtirtiri? "I 

<pdyot, tovs t« 7raTe'p a s TeAei/r^traPTas Kareadlttv Iv KaK$ Tidf^ift/otKal ipavspwi 
jilayetrSat Tais re £\Aais yuvai^l Ka\ MITpotri Kal alieKipaU. But he adds : /ml 
ravra 8' oiiru \4yo/xtv uis ovk ix 0VTis a£io7r/<TToi;s Haprupas. — (Stuauo, iv. 
201, 1). 

* iii. S. Cultures ejus iiuonditi sunt, et omnium virtutum ignari, pietatis 
admodiim cxpi'itos. 

t xxxv. Hilwrnta ei (sc. Britanniao) proximal majinitudine : inhumana est 
rilu ineolanim ii.spi'ro, alias ita pabulosu, ut pecuaria ibi nisi interdum aestate 
puslilmsareeantur, in periculum agat satietas. Illinullus anguis, avis rara, gens 
inhospita ft bellicosa : sanguine interemptorum hausto prius, victores vultus suos 
oliliniint. Fas atque nplns eodem animo dueunt. 

I Jf/trffir/s Ii/riniftuiiiu, ii. 7 (■= ii. Mo, Millie). Uuid loquar de ceteris nationi- 


W. K. Sullivan, in his introduction to O'Curry's Manners and 
Customs of the Ancient Irish, states that St. Jerome mentions 
the Atticotti in connexion with the Scoti, and after quoting the 
ahove passage, goes on to say that, " the picture which he 
(Jerome) paints of both u:as very unfavourable, and based rather on 
prejudice than accurate information." St. Jerome, however, speaks 
very gravely of what he had himself seen : we might, with all 
due deference doubt of what he had heard others say; but to 
doubt of what he states he himself had been eye-witness is 
throwing great discredit on a great Father of the Catholic Church. 
Two more of Jerome's descriptions of the "manners and cus- 
toms " of the Scoti may be cited : — " Scotorum natio uxores 
proprias non habet, et quasi Platonis politiam legerit et Catonis 
sectetur exemplum, nulla apud eos conjux propria est sed ut 
cuique libitum fuerit, peeudum more lasciviunt,"* and again, 
" Scotorum et Atticotorum ritu ac de Bepublica Platonis pro- 
miscuas uxores communes liberos habeant."f 

We have the account of the conduct of Dermot, King of 
Leinster, illustrating the ferocity, if not the actual cannibalism, 
of an Irish chief, but some seven centuries ago. A trophy of two 
hundred human heads was erected before this savage, who, 
on examining the pile, recognised the head of one of his most 
detested enemies, and in a paroxysm of unrestrained fury at the 
sight he seized it by the ears with his hands and tore off the nose 
with his teeth. 

" Champion, who was in Ireland in the year 1567," remarks 
O'Donovan, " and who was not a rabid calumniator of the Irish 
people, like Hanmer, and even Spenser, believes that the Pagan 
Irish used to eat human flesh." 

Thus, regarded from one point of view, the ancient Scoti, or 
Irish, were possessed of few virtues, and from the other point of 
view were innocent of crime ; yet, when the past is examined, 
without regard to legendary tales or poetic fiction, we find them, 
even in their most polished periods, advanced only to an imper- 
fect civilization. If passages from classical authorities, refer- 
ring to the ancient Irish, be compared with statements made by 
modern travellers with regard to the various customs at present 
prevalent amongst savage tribes, they will be found to bear a 
great family likeness, and in trying to form a picture of human 
life, in ages when there were no written records, we ought care- 
fully to utilise the analogies presented by modern savage customs. 

bus, cum ipse adolesirntulus in Gallia viderim St-otos (al. Atticottos), gentem 
Britannicain, humanis vcsi'i cai-nibus? Et turn per silvas porcorum grces et 
armeutoruni peeudumque rcperirent, pastorum nates et feminaruin, et papillas 
solere abscindere, et eas solas ciborum rtelicias arbitral! ? 

* At/ivrsns Ioriiiimtuni. f Epist. ad Oceanian. 


Viewed thus, we find many of them, no longer inexplicable, for 
we often succeed in discovering their parentage in ancient 
thought. The passages in classic writers bearing on cannibalism 
in Ireland, have been very bitterly assailed, but it does not improve 
the position to turn to questions of textual criticism or to the 
credibility attachable to each writer. These objections can be 
simply met by the statement that the early recorded evidences of 
savage practices amongst the ancient inhabitants of Ireland do 
not chronicle any customs but that are to be paralleled among 
savage nations nowadays. It is impossible, also, to believe that 
human ingenuity could be charged with the invention, by different 
authors at different times, of customs which have their analogies 
in actual life at the present time. 

Herodotus, when describing the habits of the Massagetae, 
states that as soon as any one amongst them "becomes infirm 
through age, his assembled relations put him to death, boiling 
along with his body the flesh of sheep and other animals, upon 
which they feast, esteeming universally this mode of death the 
happiest. Of those who die from any disease they never eat ; 
they bury them in the earth and esteem their fate a matter to be 
lamented, because they have not lived to be sacrificed." 

In Greece, at the festival of the Omophagia, in honour of 
" Bacchus carnivorous," it is stated that, in early days, human 
victims were immolated ; in later times, the sacrifice was com- 
memorated by the priests alone being compelled to eat raw 
animal meat. " These bloody Omophagic feasts were celebrated 
every three years, and took place chiefly in Chios and Tenedos ; 
from the raw flesh eaten at them, Dionysos obtained his names of 
(Lfx.-rja-rii's and ti/iuiStos. Toward the end of the third century 
before Christ, these rites had invaded Italy ; in b.c. 186, a young 
Koman having been cautioned not to attend them, by a freed 
slave who had been initiated into the mysteries, and who knew 
that it was the intention of the priests to sacrifice him, commu- 
nicated with the magistrates, and the horrors of the Bacchanalian 
rites were exposed. Then the Senate issued its famous edict, 
' De Bacchanalibus,' which banished the mysteries from Borne 
and Italy. ' The Bomans cannot be sufficiently thankful,' wrote 
Pliny, ' that they put away these monstrosities, in which it was 
regarded as an act of the highest religion to kill a man, and as a 
most salutary act to eat him.' This eating of human flesh was 
commuted afterwards to the devouring of the raw flesh of a ram 
or ox ; and Arnobius describes the Bacchanalians of his day, 
who thought they received the fulness of God's majesty when 
they tore and ate struggling rams, with mouths that dripped 
with blood. Firmieius Maternus alludes to the same custom 
as prevailing in Crete, where, he says, in commemoration of the 



boy Dionysos, they tear in pieces with their teeth, once in three 
years, a living ox. But this communion, united to a com- 
memorative sacrifice, was not peculiar to the Bacchic rites, but 
prevailed in all, or nearly all, the sacrificial rites of the Greeks. 
Consequently, St. Paul exhorted his converts to avoid these com- 
munions of the heathen." 

Thus human sacrifices and cannibalism have co-existed with 
a comparatively high state of civilization ; numerous other 
instances could be mentioned — the Aztecs, in America, and the 
lately discovered early race of ancient Egypt will suffice. Instead 
•of being embalmed, laid out straight, and placed in sarcophagi 
in tombs, the dead of this strange Egyptian people were buried 
in grave pits in their clothing, lying on the left side, facing the 
west, with the head to the south : the knees doubled up almost 
to the chin ; the limbs frequently severed ; the head usually cut 
off,* and placed on a sort of pedestal. There were signs, not only 
that the bodies were cut up before being buried, but that they 
were sometimes partly eaten, and the marrow sucked from the 
bones, probably as a solemn rite, by which the virtues of the 
deceased might be transmitted to those eating him. Even more 
recently the ghastly discovery has been made, that so late in the 
career of the Egyptian nation as when the civilization of the 
eighteenth dynasty had impressed itself upon the people, human 
sacrifice was practised, and that not amongst the less cultured 
part of the community, but by the royal family itself. 

People who sacrificed human beings, ate the flesh and drank 
the blood of their enemies, devoured their deceased relatives, and 
indulged in such like orgies, did so in obedience to the then fixed 
rules of society, which governed their religious life, and made 
all these, to us, horrible observances appear strictly right and 
proper in their eyes. 

Ideas and practices of races in a very low state of culture are 
likely to present a faithful picture of the earliest races of mankind. 
When investigating the sites of Swiss lake-dwellings, the anthro- 
pologist turns for parallels to Borneo and to Africa ; and, when 
investigating the alleged cannibalism of the primitive inhabitants 
of Erin, we necessarily turn to the most uncultured savage races 
at present in existence. 

A passage from a poem in the " Dinnsenchus," on the Fair 
of Tailte, appears to refer to an alleged prohibition by St. Patrick 
■of human sacrifice : — 

" The three forbidden bloods — 
Patrick preached therein (i.e. the fair), 
Yoke oxen, and slaying milch cows, 
Also by him (against the) burning of the first born." 

* See page 335 


It is but right to state that some writers allege that the 
expression, " burning of the first born," refers to the sacrifice of 
cattle and not to that of children. 

In Dr. Whitley Stokes' translation of the " Dinnsenchus," 
there are passages which refer to human sacrifices to idols. " 'Tis 
there (Magh Slecht in the county Cavan) was the king-idol of 
Erin, namely the Crom Croich, and around him twelve idols 
made of stone ; but he was of gold. Until Patrick's advent, he 
was the god of every folk that colonised Ireland. To him they 
used to offer the firstlings of every issue, and the chief scions of 
every class." In the poetical version of this same account the 
object of the worship of this idol is thus described : — " Milk and 
corn they used to ask of him urgently ; for a third of their 
offspring. Great was its horror and its wailing." It appears 
evident from this, according to Irish mss., that at one period at 
least in ancient Erin the gods were propitiated by human sacri- 
fices — and we have Pliny's expressed opinion that " the difference 
is but small between sacrificing human beings and eating them." 

Among cannibals the offering of human flesh to the dead is 
inevitable. Human sacrifices at graves had originally the purpose 
of supplying human flesh for the support of the spirit of the 

Canon Greenwell, who explored numerous barrows of the 
Stone Age — particularly in the North of England — is of opinion 
that many of the human remains which they enclose exhibited 
indications of cannibalism having been practised ; whilst another 
specialist sees no difficulty in acceding to the conclusions thus 
arrived at. Thus we may, without being guilty of calumniating 
the dead, pronounce our ancestors of the Stone Age, if not even 
those of later dates, to have been savages. We cannot possibly 
reform our forefathers, we must depict them as they lived. If 
we represent them otherwise than they really were, we write 
fallacious history, pleasant reading for to-day, to be demonstrated 
false on the morrow. The accusation of cannibalism, it must 
be emphatically stated, relates not alone to the Irish, but to all 
the ancient people of the British Isles, though, at the time of 
the Roman conquest of England, its inhabitants appear to have 
already passed beyond the stage in which they eat their dead. 

The food of primitive man for a long period, in one stage of his 
existence, was in all probability wholly, or almost wholly, animal, 
and the practice of an almost universal cannibalism is placed ap- 
parently beyond a doubt. Now it is well to state distinctly, that 
for the purpose of this investigation, ilonunentanj evidence — though 
classical evidence appears irrefutable — in amipttmtiivty immaterial ; 
it is on the evidence the ancient inhabitants have themselves 
left, on the witness presented by osseous and other remains that 



we must rely ; for it is clear that the first Christian compilers, or 
redactors, of the Irish records, would, as far as possible, erase 
from them all references to a former state of cannibalism. Un 
the advent of the early missionaries the custom would probably 
be repudiated even by those addicted to it, whilst unknown to 
the first pioneers, it may have secretly continued to exist lor 
many years after the introduction of Christianity. 

Until lately it was. even .denied by missionaries that canni- 
balism existed on the Congo, although the custom is practically 
universal; the natives fully understand that it isnot approved 
of by the white man, and.' a ludicrous instance which illustrates, 
in this connexion, the working of the uneducated conscience, is 
given by a medical officer of the Congo Free State. On asking 
some negroes, on the Lulanga, whether it was common for them 
to eat human flesh, they replied, with feigned horror—" Oh ! no, 
white man, we never, do so ; but up the river, where you will be 
travelling to-morrow, the people are very bad, for they do it 
there." The doctor subsequently made inquiries from the up- 
river people, of. whom he had heard such atrocities. He asked, 
"Bo you. eat one another up here ?" They indignantly replied, 
"No,< no!' white man-;- but the people down-river, from whom 
you have come, are very bad, they do such things." 

The real fact was, that both tribes were cannibals. 

Other races do not, however, attempt in the slightest _ de- 
gree to conceal their predilection for human flesh. A vivacious 
French writer recounts that, in the year 1725, some North 
American Indians were brought from the banks of the Mississippi 
to the Court of the King of France. A squaw, of whom he 
inquired if she had eaten human flesh, replied in the affirmative. 
The Frenchman appeared so astonished and shocked that the 
lady excused herself by explaining that " it was better to 
eat one's dead enemy than leave him to be devoured by wild 


A missionary who sought to abolish .this custom among a 
certain tribe, was met by the inquiry — " Would you have the 
dead eaten by the worms ?" 

The Fangwes are cannibals of the most pronounced type, and 
are one of the many African tribes who eat their own dead. 
Miss Kingsle.y, who travelled far the Cameroonsin the year 1S95, 
did not discover a single burial-place in the Fangwee country \ 
but found in most of the huts junks of human flesh hung up, 
just as at home we keep meat in our larders. 

Captain S. L. Hinde who for many years lived and travelled 
in the vast region of Equatorial Africa, states that nearly all the 
tribes in the Congo basin either are, or have been, cannibals. 
Since the advent of Europeans there have been greater facilities 


for inter-communication, and tribes that were not originally 
cannibals have learnt to eat human flesh, whilst cannibalism in 
other tribes is on the wane. Captain Hinde further remarked 
that on the night after a battle, or the storming of a village, 
" these human wolves disposed of all the dead, and thus saved 
us, no doubt, from many an epidemic." He could not buy 
" meat in the markets, it being impossible to be sure that it was 
not human flesh." 

The practice of eating the dead, whether captives in war or 
deceased relatives, is so prevalent, and modern travellers give so 
many instances, that only two more typical cases need be cited, 
one in Africa, brought into such notoriety by Stanley, the other 
a description of a funeral feast amongst the aborigines in Queens- 
land, Australia, in the year 1870. In the latter case, a native 
having died, a funeral procession was formed, and the body was 
most scientifically skinned, dissevered, and the flesh removed 
from the bones, before a large fire. After a short absence from 
the scene, the spectator found upon his unexpected return great 
lumps of meat roasting on this fire, and, he significantly adds, 
that the natives " abstain from kangaroo for several weeks after 
a death." 

It may appear strange that a creature apparently so insigni- 
cant as the hare should have been looked on in ancient times as 
sacred ; but such appears to have been the case, at any rate in 
the British Isles ; for we have the authority of Cassar that, at 
the time of his invasion of Albion, the hare was " tabooed." 
The Eoman gourmands esteemed the animal more highly 
than we do ; and we find Horace praising it highly. Even 
at the present day there is, in some localities in Ireland, a 
prejudice against eating hares, lest they should turn out to be 
witches, and a great shriek should be heard when the hare was 
being killed. 

We know that various animals were sacramentally eaten and 
others forbidden to be eaten in certain heathen and Jewish 
rituals. The rules as to the eating and not eating of certain 
kinds of flesh were directly connected, with ancient superstitions, 
which in the last resort must have arisen out of ideas closely 
analogous to the totemism of modern savages. Most primitive 
peoples have rules forbidding the use of certain kinds of food, out 
of religious scruple, or, on the other hand, the) never eat certain 
kinds of flesh except as a solemn act of worship. "An animal that 
may not be eaten, or that may be eaten only in solemn sacra- 
ment, is primarily a holy animal, and is often an object of wor- 
ship, for in primitive religions the ideas holy and unclean meet. 
Similar prohibitions have been enforced in Christian times on 
converts from heathenism, in order to cut them off from 


participation in idolatrous feasts. Thus Simeon Stylites forbade 
his Saracen converts to eat the flesh of the camel, which was tne 
chief element in the sacrificial meal of the Arabs, and our own 
prejudice against the use of horse flesh is a relic of an old 
ecclesiastical prohibition framed at the time when eating ot such 
food was an act of worship to Odin." 

By way of guarding against the possibility of profanation the 
Pharisees enacted that the touch of anything sacred defiled the 
hands, while the Sadducees on the other hand ridiculed the idea 
that the roll of the law defiled the hands, but not such a book as 
Homer, and taunted their opponents with their many lustrations, 
or with what, in modern phraseology, we should designate their 
numerous " tabooes." 

In ancient days it was a belief that the physical, mental, and 
moral qualities of man were intimately connected with his food, 
and it is still a very prevalent idea amongst tribes in a rude state 
that the flesh of certain animals imparts to some extent the 
characteristics of the animals eaten, the flesh of the fiercer beasts 
of prey imparts courage, that of the stag speed, that of the dove 
gentleness, that of the hare timidity, for which reason, perhaps, 
the ancient Irish did not eat the hare. This train of thought 
may have tempted the aborigines of Erin to eat their deceased 
relatives, so that the warlike or other virtues of the dead might 
be perpetuated in the family or tribe. In former days the heads 
of Maori chiefs slain in battle were usually preserved by the 
conqueror, so that we have, not only many beautiful specimens 
of tattooing, but also the record of the very curious fact that the 
eyes are generally missing, for the vanquisher generally scooped 
out and swallowed the eyes of his foe, and thought that " he had 
obtained the spirit and power of the slain, and was raised above 
his fellows, becoming — if he swallowed enough eyes — a god, 
even upon earth, and after death a heavenly luminary of the first 

When the motives which regulate still existing cannibalism 
are collected and tabulated, it is found that, in more than half 
the tribes, mental motives now prevail, whilst in the remainder 
the physical motives of hunger or pleasure even still predominate. 
W. N. Flinders-Petrie has roughly tabulated the ideas at root of 
present day customs amongst savage tribes thus : — 

Honour, kindness, future good, love, 
To obtain strength, or magic results, 
As a ceremony, or to acquire position, 
As a punishment, 
From hunger or need of food, 
From preference as food, 

20 per cent. 


1. .- 1 

10 „ I 


| 40 
Total, . 100 


Thus we see that amongst the rudest people cannibalism is 
now generally considered a religious or semi-religious act, on the 
supposition that with the flesh the eater assimilates the spirit or 
some spiritual constituent of the victim. 

The custom still surviving in Irish wakes of the entire 
assembly partaking of food, drink, salt, tobacco, or snuff, in the 
presence of the dead, is but an attenuated form of the older 
practice of consuming such things after they had been placed 
upon, or near the corpse or coffin. This in turn seems to imply 
that the recipients should have transmitted to them some of the 
qualities of the dead man, so that we have, in the modern usage, 
a fragmentary relic of the savage feast where the real body of the 
deceased was consumed, for it is evident that this rite has not the 
remotest affinity to that in which the " Sin-Eater " figures in 
connexion with funeral observances in Great Britain. There 
the " Sin-Eater " is generally a needy individual, though some- 
times a " professional," hired to eat food laid on the chest of the 
corpse. He is supposed thereby to release the dead person from 
his sins, and, by his act, to take them upon himself. 

Irish "Historians" are quite ready to believe anything 
which redounds to the glory of their country, but when the 
authority, which before was praised for truthfulness, proceeds to 
paint the other side of the picture, words fail to depict their 
righteous indignation. Cambrensis relates that when Irish chiefs 
who had been at variance desired to be friends " they used the 
custom of kissing the relics of the saints in the presence of a 
bishop as a solemn testimony of their reconciliation." That 
was quite worthy of belief, but, according to Keating, what 
follows, although the mere incorporation of a pagan (and probably 
funeral rite) into Christian usage " is monstrous and incredible, 
i.e., that they took a draught of each other's blood.' 

In the Yellmf Hunk of Lecan St. Cairnech, in concluding 
a treaty of amity between two opposing parties, mixed their 
blood in one vessel, and with it wrote the purport of the treaty. 

The hand of a dead person was regarded as a certain cure for 
most diseases, hence the sick were often brought to the house in 
which a corpse was lying, that the hand of the dead might be 
laid on them. Bodies were often disinterred for the purpose of 
cutting off the left hand, for many strange spells are effected by 
its means. The best hand for the purpose is that of an un- 
baptized infant. If a candle is placed in a dead man's hand 
neither wind nor water can extinguish it ; if it is thus placed in 
a house at night no earthly power will wake the inmates so long 
as the dead hand grasps the candle. 

The following curious superstition is recounted by a French- 
man in the year 179^, in Sonreniers de Mrs Voyages en 


Angleterre. Describing an execution at Newgate, he says : — 
"My horror was intensified hy seeing many men and women 
carried to the scaffold in order to have applied to them for the 
cure of various diseases the still throbbing hand of the just 
executed criminal." 

There is a superstition of an extraordinary character prevalent 
in many districts of Ireland that to dip the left hand of a corpse 
in milk, and stir it, has the effect of making the milk produce 
cream in increased quantity and of richer and better quality. At 
Oran, in the county Roscommon, the corpse of a child was dis- 
interred, its arms cut off and employed in some mystic rites, the 
nature of which is unfortunately not stated. 

In many localities throughout Ireland mould taken from the 
reputed grave of a " saint," if mixed with water or boiled in 
milk, and swallowed by the recipient, is considered to be an in- 
fallible remedy for certain maladies. 

The Eev. Nicholas Sheehy, P.P., of Shanraher, executed for 
treason in the year 1766, lies buried in the little churchyard 
of Clogheen. T. Crofton Croker, who visited the place in 1828, 
recounts that a " hole is left in the side of the tomb to enable the 
peasantry to procure earth from the grave, and it is still visited 
for that purpose by the superstitious, who drink this earth in 
water, as a charm for various diseases. People have been known 
to come from Belfast and from beyond Dublin to obtain some of 
the earth." 

In the churchyard of Downpatrick Cathedral is shown the 
alleged grave of Saint Patrick. Only a depression marked the 
spot, as the earth was constantly removed and carried off to all 
parts of the country for its supposed healing powers and other 
virtues. The demand for the earth was at one time sufficient to 
remove the entire grave many times over, and would have done 
so were it not that fresh earth was constantly thrown on it (see 
mite, pp. 268-4, fig. 81). A similar demand and renewed supply 
existed at Banagher, county Down, and at St. Declan's grave at 
Ardmore, county Cork. 

A cure for toothache is to drink water from a human skull, or 
to swallow a small quantity of clay from a priest's grave. Burton, 
in his Anatomy of Melancholy, mentions the use of a plaster 
of spiders — the web being useful for stopping the flow of blood — 
together with moss from a dead man's skull brought from Ireland. 
An Inishkea fisherman states that on the island it is believed that 
toothache may be completely removed, and will never return, if 
the tooth be rubbed with a dead man's finger. 

There is a traditional story, recounted In the parish of Clon- 
many, county Donegal, " that the earth of a little hillock (tempo 
■<h',th) on the right of the road leading from the chapel to the 


church " formerly possessed miraculous power until the earth was 
vended when its curative properties ceased. " Still, however, 
they (the parishioners) carry all their dead around it, as being an 
ancient custom." This hillock appears to have been an old pagan 
sepulchral mound. 

Several cases of the use of " the spancel " (i.e. ligature), a love 
charm of most gruesome character, the power of which is believed 
to be irresistible, came under the observation of the Eev. Csesar 
Ottway. One notable instance, that of three young girls detected 
in the very act of flaying a corpse, is given in full in his Etris and 
Ti/raiclKi/: "The spancel" called in Irish, stheioui ilhrum agu* 
tJwmigh, consists of a continuous band of human skin, stripped 
from a corpse in the following manner, viz., " from the side of 
one foot, up the outside of that leg and side, over the head and 
down the other side, to the sole of the other foot, up the inside of 
that leg and down the inside of the other, until the strip meets 
where it first set out." In order to secure the affection of the 
man, the only thing necessary is for the girl to tie the spancel 
round him when asleep. If he does not awake during the 
operation the charm will work, if he is aroused he will die 
within twelve months ; thus the victim has no chance of 

In the curious account of the Irish given in Camden's History, 
some charm of ihe natives of the nature of the foregoing is 
evidently referred to where it is stated that the odalisques and 
"cast-off wives" of the chiefs resorted to witches, who were 
believed by them to be able either to procure the return of their 
husband's affection for them, or to be able to afflict their cruel 
masters with personal, or other calamities. A small portion of a 
human skull is also regarded as a specific. 

Grose mentions that, in the graveyard of Clonthuskert, 
county Roscommon, a skull was shown "in which milk was 
boiled and given to a man afflicted with epilepsy." A well-known 
cure for this disorder is to take nine pieces from the cranium of 
a, dead man, grind them quite fine and dissolve them in a decoc- 
tion of wall-rue. The patient must swallow a prescribed portion 
of the mixture every morning fasting, until the whole is drunk, 
for if any be left the late owner of the skull will return to look 
after the uns wallowed portion. 

* The skull of the poet Carolan was thus utilized by the 
peasantry. Small fragments broken off were ground fine, put 
in water and swallowed as a cure. 

Epilepsy aud kindred diseases were regarded by the peasantry 
as spiritual disorders, the work of demons, and the remedies 
recommended are highly suggestive, consisting as they do some- 
times of fragments of the human skull, pierced and worn as 


amulets round the neck, sometimes of the ashes of a skull applied 
as a plaster on the crown of the afflicted person's head, but more 
often, as already mentioned, ground and administered internally. 
In the Middle Ages the substance of the human skull was 
used by regular practitioners in the treatment of epilepsy. 
Even in the last century pharmacies contained a bottle labelled 
Ozsa Wormiana employed for the treatment of epilepsy. The 
lambdoidal bone in form resembles the amulets cut from the 
human skull, thus showing a link between preventive and mystic 

Making oath upon a skull — any skull will do, but a saint's 
for choice — used to be a very solemn affair. A writer describes 
one instance which came under his notice. An honest and very 
fearless woman was accused of theft. She was so indignant at 
the charge that she procured a skull, carried it to the chapel, and 
as the congregation came out after mass, she produced the grue- 
some object and " cleared herself." The greatest weight is 
attached to this strange oath, as it is believed that if it be 
violated the spirit, to whom the skull belonged will haunt, not 
only the perjured one, but the descendants from generation to 

In some localities, bodies when committed to the earth, do not 
decay in the ordinary way, and adipocere in large quantities is 
often noticed wheu the ground is opened for fresh interments. 
Adipocere is a soft, unctuous, or waxy substance, of a light brown, 
colour, into which the fat and muscular fibre of bodies are con- 
verted by burial in soil of a peculiar nature. In one graveyard 
in the west of Ireland, the sexton had recently to gather up and 
carefully secrete this substance, as otherwise it would be carried 
off by people whose relations were afflicted with consumption ; when 
melted, the adipocere was administered to the invalid as a certain 
cure for the malady. Here again the real body of the deceased is 
consumed, as in other instances before noticed, it is figuratively 

Strange ideas concerning human, or animal fat, were current 
in days both ancient and modern. In sacrifices by fire, amongst 
the Jews and heathen alike, the fat of the victim was specially 
reserved as the food of the gods ; its use was therefore forbidden 
to _ the commonalty, by whom it was considered holy, and if a 
thing is regarded as holy or tabooed, it possessed, or is thought 
to possess, for that very reason, certain characteristic qualities. 
Among many savage races the fat of some animals is supposed to 
possess healing virtues, and melted in water, is often administered 
for cures. Dried flesh and fat are used by several African tribes 
as charms and to effect cures ; grease is the common unguent 
employed all over Africa ; its use is not merely considered hygienic, 


but has also a sacred meaning. The use of various kinds of fat, 
but particularly of human fat as a cbarm, is common all the 
world over, and this is because fat, like blood, is regarded as a 
seat of life, and therefore a means of transmitting the virtues 
of the being from which it is taken to the being that partakes 
of it. 

It was considered unlucky to change the clothing of a dying 
person, and a custom that, in some parts of Ireland, attends the 
last agonies of dissolution is stranger still. The moribund is 
lifted off the bed and laid on straw on the floor. On the island 
of Inishmurray, off the coast of Sligo, the straw or mattrass on 
which the corpse is lying, is carried, with the body, into the 
burial-ground, inside the enclosure of thecashel or stone fort, and 
deposited in one of the small pre-Christian recesses, or chambers, 
in the thickness of the cyclopean walls. 

Not many years ago there were frequently deposited with the 
corpse a piece of a candle, a coin, and a small quantity of wine 
or spirits. The candle was to give the deceased light, the money 
was to pay his fare over the river of death, and the liquor 
was to sustain him on his journey. Glass bottles of the third 
and fourth century, found in the Eoman catacombs embedded 
in the mortar of tombs, very probably contained originally a 
portion of eucharistic wine intended as a viaticum for the 
departed, that is, as food for his journey into the spirit 

When a person lay dying, rush-lights were left burning (the 
unlighted end embedded in a bowl full of meal) till death 
occurred. The candles were then extinguished, and the meal 
given to the first person passing the house. The sheet in which 
the corpse was wrapped was carefully laid by as a charm for 
disease, and the pins, used in laying out the dead, were also 
carefully preserved, as they possess great mystic power. 

Many funeral rites survived the substitution of the burial of 
the body for cremation : among them the lighting of torches with 
which the pyre was kindled, was, in after times, replaced by the 
lighting of candles placed around the corpse. The kindling of 
torches, or the lighting of candles, represents the ceremony of 
the ignition of the ancient funeral pyre. 

At the ceremony of an Irish wake, the corpse is stretched on 
its back, on u table in the middle of the room, dressed in clean 
white grave-clothes, with five, seven, or even more candles 
around it, according to the circumstances of the defunct. On 
the breast of the corpse is placed a plate of tobacco, cut in short 
lengths, and a plate of snuff. Seats are ranged round the walls, 
and immediately behind the corpse's head is the place of honour, 
where sit the chief mourners and most respected guests. It is a 



common belief that if the corpse does not soon become rigid, but 
remains flaccid and limber, another death in the family will 
quickly follow. 

When members of the family of the deceased, or near acquain- 
tances, enter the room in which the wake is held, they stoop over 
the body and weep and lament, on which all in the house join in 
chorus, but when persons who are neither relatives nor acquain- 
tances come in, they merely kneel, say a short prayer, take a seat 
and fill their pipes and their glasses (fig. 84). 

In many parts of the country new clay pipes and packets of 
tobacco are distributed amongst the funeral guests, who sit around 
and smoke while the grave is being dug. It is believed that it is 
the duty of the ghost of the last arrival in a churchyard to watch 
the other graves, and attend upon their occupants ; but the 
recently made spirit hankers after tobacco, and dearly loves a last 
smoke, so unused tobacco and unused pipes are not removed from 
the graveyard ; the guests are, however, at liberty to take away the 
pipes they themselves have smoked. The pipe has, therefore, 
strange to narrate, developed into an actual religious symbol. 

J?IG. 85. 

Tobacco Pipes on a Grave in a Churchyaril in the West of Ireland. 
From Welch's Irish Views. 

"When I was visiting Connemara two or three months ago" 
(remarks a contributor to The skttch, July 28th, 1897), " I found 
an interesting relic of folklore custom among some of the inhabi- 
tants. Whenever a man of the village is buried, his friends and 
neighbours place their pipes on his grave duly filled with tobacco. 
Not content with this, they renew both pipes and tobacco from 
time to time. There are at least two churchyards near Leenane, 
in Galway, where you come across grave after grave decorated with 
pipes (fig. 85). This must of course be a variation of the old prac- 
tices of placing food and drink in the dead man's coffin ; but that a 
practice such as that, and also keening should survive to the end 
of the nineteenth century will be a surprise to the matter-of-fact 


people on this side of the Irish Channel." Pipes and tobacco 
have been observed on graves in churchyards in the county 

Wakes held in the case of a person who has been drowned and 
whose body cannot be found, or wakes held on the arrival of tid- 
ings of the death of a person residing out of his native country, 
hold to a ceremony in which the corpse is actually present the 
same relation that does, in material matters, the cenotaph to the 
true burial earn. Gerald Griffin has immortalised this custom in 
his ballad of " The Wake of the Absent " :— 

" The dismal yew, the Cyprus tall, 

Wave o'er the churchyard lone, 
Where rest our friends and fathers all, 

Beneath the funeral stone. 
Unvexed in holy ground they sleep, 

Oh early lost ! o'er thee 
No sorrowing friend shall ever weep, 

Nor stranger bend the knee, 

Mo Chuma ! lorn am I ! 
Hoarse dashing rolls the salt sea wave, 
Over our perished darling's grave." 

Although many writers assert that no mention is made in 
ancient Irish mss. of the ceremony of cremation of the dead 
amongst the Irish, yet it seems that they have overlooked 
indirect reference to it. For example, in the Book of Ballymote 
there is an account of the death of Fiachra, brother to Niall of 
the Nine Hostages. The ms. recounts how " his grave was 
made, his mound raised, and his cluiche cainte ignited." 
■Cluiche cainte is explained as " funeral rites, including games and 
dirges." Now it is plain that a "game" or a "dirge" could 
not be ignited, and therefore the term clutch? cainte must refer 
to a fire lighted for the purpose, either of consuming the body of 
the dead chief or of preparing the funeral feast. 

Commenting, however, on this passage, the late B. E. Brash, 
remarks that he fears it does not give any information on the 
point at issue. "The word cluiche, signifies games, and refers 
to hurling, wrestling and mock military combats that were 
performed at the Jenachs or annual assemblies ; and also at the 
obsequies of great chiefs, or warriors ; Cainteach, signifies fluency 
of speech, loquacity ; we have also Caintcc, a song, a canticle ; 
Cao into, lamented, bewailed ; and Caointeach, sad, sorrowful, 
mournful, plaintive. The reference here is certainly to the funeral 
games, and to dirge and laudatory requiems (caoine), which were 
recited, or sung, on such occasions. The word ignited, in the 
original ' haihuul,' is very correctly rendered by Dr. Sullivan, but 
it also signifies, fervour, zeal, heat, excitement. I conceive that 


the reference here is to the warmth of feeling and fervour with 
which the exciting portions of the funeral ceremony was carried 
out ; the term here appears used in a similar sense as when we say 
of an orator ' that he fired the enthusiasm of his audience.' " 

In the story of the death of Crimthann and three other person- 
ages, as recorded in an Irish manuscript, there occurs a passage 
which, according to O'Curry, seems to prove not only the tradition 
in historic times of the practice of cremation of the dead in Ireland, 
but also that of putting persons to death at funerals. This 
important passage is as follows: — " Fimlmi then brought fifty 
hostages with him from Munster, and he brought a great enin 
I i.e. booty levied as legal fine), and he went forth then on his way 
to Tfinar. When, however, he reached Fonul in Ui Mac I'nis in 
Meath, Fiachra died of his wounds there. His Lencht was made, 
and his /■'<</ Mvas raised, and his < .'lutein- I'niittfch was ignited, and 
his Ogam name was written, and the fifty hostages which he 
brought from the south were buried alive around the Fn-t of 
Fuirhru, that it might be a reproach to the Momonians for ever, 
and that it might be a trophy over them." " The reproach which 
this act was intended to cast on the men of Munster consisted, no 
doubt, in treating the Munster hostages, who were all of the 
highest birth, as if they were the dependents and slaves of Fim-hra. 
It may be, also, that putting them to death, in the way here 
described, and burying them around him, as they would have sat 
in fetters along the wall of his banqueting hall, consecrated them, 
as it were to perpetual hostageship even among the dead." Very 
similar ideas were current in classic antiquity. Achilles sacri- 
ficed twelve Trojan youths to the manes of Patroclus, together 
with his favourite horse and hound and a number of oxen and 
sheep. Aeneas sacrificed eight youths to the manes of his friend 
Pallas, as well as oxen and swine to the manes of those fallen in 
battle. Archaeologists have long regarded the ceremony, practised 
at a mounted officer's funeral, of leading his charger in the 
procession, as a sampler survival from barbaric times, when the 
warrior's horse and trappings, armour and other weapons were 
actually buried with him, or burnt on his funeral pyre. The 
modern charger, which accompanies his master's body to the 
grave, and returns to its stable, represents the horse, which 
some centuries before, would have been offered to the priests at 
the church gate ; and earlier still would have been slaughtered 
for his master's ghost to ride, in fitting guise, into the warrior'? 

A work, entitled Silent (Jmls and Siin-steejHil Lands, contains 
a series of remarkable stories, collected by E. \V. Frazer, ll.b., 
whin in the Indian Civil Service. One based on the widespread 
belief that the security of a building is insured by burying a human 


being alive under its foundation, is annotated with quotations 
from reliable authorities regarding human sacrifice. 

Jephthah's immolation of his daughter (some theologians, to 
avoid the difficulty, state that this was mere devotion and perpetual 
virginity), David giving the seven, sons of Saul to be sacrificed, 
Samuel hewing Agag to pieces before Jahveh (theologians have 
little to say about these examples), appear to leave little doubt 
but that the Israelites of old, even "when devout worshippers 
of Jahveh, considered human sacrifices under certain circum- 
stances to be not only permissible bat laudable." 

In a primitive state of. society it seems to have been a general 
belief that when a building was io be erected something living 
must be killed, in the blood of which the foundation was laid, 
and by this process the stability of the fabric was secured. In 
ballads and traditions the remembrance is still preserved of how 
human beings, children, and animals were slaughtered for the 
purpose of upholding large buildings with their blood. A tradi- 
tion connected with many old Irish castles is that human blood 
had been mixed with the mortar, which imparts the hardness and 
tenacity so characteristic of ancient cement. 

It was, it would thus appear, needful to appease the anger of 
the spirit of the earth for intrusion into its domain, by digging 
into the ground for the foundations of buildings. To this 
spirit human blood was considered to be the highest offering that 
it was possible to make. In India, as we have seen, and many 
Eastern states, the belief still exists — as well as in Siam, Borneo, 
Japan, New Zealand, and Fiji. It prevailed over the European 
continent and the British Isles. There is a well-known legend 
which relates that Voltigern, advised by the British Druids, 
sought out a victim to sacrifice at the foundation of his castle. 
In Scotland the Bicts are reputed to have poured human blood on 
the foundations of their edifices. Attention may be drawn to the 
well-known legend which relates how Saint Columbkille defeated 
the machinations of an evil spirit which sought to impede his 
building operations on the island of Iona, by the sacrifice of one of 
his companions. This story contains very plain evidence indeed 
of the fact that in early Christian times human sacrifices were 
still remembered, if not, indeed, practised. After Columbkille- 

* Columbkille whs both a poet and a theologian, and some of his verses throw 
a curious sidelight on the contemporary state of Ireland. At the close of one 
poem tho saint, observes that he loved Erin "all but its government " a food 
exemplification, even in those remote times, of the general bias of an Irishman's 
mmd, as also of tho state of society at the period, and a sentiment intelligible to 
the meanest comprehension when collated with another verse in which he 
describes " an island in the middle of a lake," that is, a crannog or completely 
insulated lake dwelling, as the only place in Ireland in which life might be 
deemed tolerably secure. ° 


was banished from Ireland, his first attempts to build on Iona 
were rendered vain by the operation of some evil spirit ; the 
walls fell down as fast as erected, and it was revealed to the saint 
that they could never stand until a human victim was buried 
alive beneath the foundation. One account says the lot fell on a 
companion of the saint named Oran, as the victim required for 
the success of the undertaking ; another states that Oran volun- 
tarily devoted himself, and was accordingly interred alive. At 
the end of three days Columbkille, wishing to take a farewell look 
at his old friend, ordered the removal of the earth. Oran there- 
upon raised his swimming eyes, and, addressing Columbkille, said : 
" There is no wonder in death, and hell is not as it is reported." 
The saint, shocked at this disclosure, and the loss to the coffers of 
the Church which it implied, instantly ordered the earth to be 
flung in again on Oran, uttering in Irish the words : Earth, earth, 
on the month (if Oran, that he may blab no more, and this saying 
passed into a proverb. 

The death of a fowl appears to be the last trace of this 
barbaric custom, but the Wind-God seems to divide the sacrifice 
with the Earth-God. :; It is the usage on some of the islands off 
the western coast on St. Patrick's day to sacrifice a black cock in 
honour of the saint, though no one can tell why it is considered 
necessary that blood should be spilt. 

Bo late as the commencement of the nineteenth century, on 
the 11th of November, the eve of St. Martin, every family in the 
parish of St. Peter's, Athlone, as well as those in the surrounding 
districts, killed a living creature of some kind. Those who were 
well-to-do, an ox or a sheep, the poorer classes a goose, turkey, 
or fowl, and they then sprinkled the threshold and the four corners 
of the house with the blood. 

In Irish mss. there are instances recorded of the punishment, 
for what were then considered as great crimes, by being burnt 
alive in public, and this ancient niitv da fc limy be regarded as a 
sacrifice to the deity supposed to be offended. Thus, Eile was 
burned in a Trin? Tnlin, i.e. a " hill-fire ; " Murne, daughter of 
Tadg, druid of Cathair Mor, would have been burned by her 
father, but for dread of the vengeance of Con Cut Chatach. In 
the case of the three kings of Emania, among the pledges given 
that they should rule by rotation were seven chiefs who were 

* Fishermen in the west ofGahvay, inoi Jer to obtain n fair wind, buried a fowl 
in tile sand on the seashore, turning its head to the point from which the adverse 
wind blow, and then left the poor bird to perish. On the island of Inishglora, 
a black hen used on some occasions to be buried alive, -with its wings spread out, 
as u propitiatory offering to procure a fair wind, or some much-desired gift, 
from tin' invisible powers. 



liable to be burned if the king, for whom they were security, did 
not resign at the end of his term of seven years. 

Eeference to cremation also occurs in Wassersehleben's Die 
Irische Eanonensaiiimlung. The passage runs thus : — " A Sinodus 
Hibernensis : Basilion graece, rex latine, huic et basilica, 
regalis, quia in primis temporibus reges tantum sepeliebantur in 
ea, nomeo sortitia est ; nam ceteri homines sive igne, sive acervo 
lapidum conditi sunt." The place which this passage has found 
in a collection of Irish canons must be owing to its containing a 
recognition of the right of interment within the church. One 
is tempted to infer that, in the first instance, the chieftain who 
adopted the new faith desired to be there interred, as had been 
his ancestors. The second part of the passage seems to denote 
that cremation continued as one of the forms of burial, up to the 
introduction of Christianity into Ireland, for after stating that in 
early times only kings were buried in churches, the reason for 
this exception is thus given : — " The bodies of the rest of the 
people were either consumed by fire or buried under a heap of 
stones," i.e. they were cremated and placed under a earn. 

The capitularies of Charlemagne, of the year 790, contain 
ordinances levelled against burning the bodies of the dead with 
pagan rites, and against sacrificing human beings and making 
offerings to demons upon the corpse. Shortly after their con- 
version to Christianity the Prussians formally renounced pagan 
rites, such as the burning of the dead or burying them with 
horses, clothes, and valuables. 

In one of the first accounts of ancient sepulture, which 
appeared in the Transactions of the Eoyal Irish Academy, W. 
Beauford, a.b., writing in the year 1788, says : — " The Irish long 
retained an attachment to their ancient customs and pagan 
superstitions, especially in the modes of interment ; and the 
custom of burying in consecrated ground was not universal in 
Ireland in the twelfth century on the arrival of the English, as 
we find it enjoined in the Council of Cashel, held in 1172, and 
mentioned by Cambrensis." 

A curious entry occurs in the Annals of Loch Ce, at so late a 
date as 1581. It is as follows :— " Brian Caech O'Coinnegain, 
an eminent cleric, and keeper of a general house of guests died] 
and the place of sepulchre which he selected for himself was! 
i.e. to be buried at the mound of Baile-an-Tobair." The com- 
pilers of the Annals try to explain this strange incident of the 

burial of a cleric in a pagan tumulus by the following remark : 

"And we think that it was not through want of religion Brian 
Caech made this selection, but because he saw not the service of 
God practised in any church near him at that time." 

A recent writer describing the miniature republic of St. 


Marino in Italy says : — " It is a curious fact that till quite lately 
the Sammarinesi have had no cemetery, and their manner of 
disposing of the dead was, to say the least, extraordinary. 
Except the few who were buried in the vaults of the churches, 
all were laid in stone receptacles in the walls between the exterior 
columns of the cathedral. After a term of years these were 
opened to make room for other inmates, the bones taken out. 
burnt on the hillside, and the ashes scattered to the winds of 

It seems extraordinary that in Ireland a memory of cremation 
should be almost absent from both history and tradition. Cre- 
mation appears never to have wholly mastered and driven out 
the more ancient and customary usage of carnal interment ; but 
the fact remains that at one and the same time both kinds of 
burial obtained. With the first supercession of inhumation, and 
the substitution, in greater part at least, of incineration in its 
stead, an immense forward stride was taken in spiritual develop- 
ment, for it is then that the idea of immortality commenced. 
Fire was employed in consuming the earthly shell, in order to 
set free the soul to ascend with the smoke of the pyre to its home 
beyond the clouds. 

Amongst the Celts, according to C.usar and other writers, 
burning the dead was customary, and he relates how, at one 
time, with the deceased were consumed whatever he valued most, 
i.f. his slaves, his horses, his dogs, &c. It may be surmised that 
calcined human remains found in Ireland are generally those of 
the " upper stratum " of society, though — judging from the 
exploration in the cemetery at Ballon Hill — cremation may, in 
some districts, have been the universal custom, but generally it 
was a funeral luxury. Pliny states that it was not an ancient 
institution, yet one is reminded of Ovid's lines, so full of 
pathos : — 

Cam f'uit, eonjux, primae mihi cura juventae 
(Jognita; nunc ubi sit quaeritis ? Urnategit.* 

Some of the noble Roman families never adopted the new 
fashion, and in later times, amongst the Greeks, crema ion, 
owing to the great expense of the funeral pyre, was by no means 

No account has yet been given of arrangements so sys- 
tematic as that which occurred in the exploration of an 
old Irish pagan cemetery at Mount Stewart, in the county 
Down, where urn interment was the exclusive mode of sepulchre. 

1 1 omc had a dear wile, known as the choice of my curly youth ; 
Do you ask where she is now ? The urn covers her." 



In the year 1789, circumstances necessitated the removal [of 
a earn (5 feet high, saucer-shaped on the summit, and 30 feet 
in diameter) in the demesne of Lord Londonderry. Though 
outwardly presenting no peculiarity to distinguish it from other 
similar structures, a very systematic arrangement of cists was 
disclosed when the stones composing it were carted away. Large 
flagstones occurred at regular intervals covering four others, set 
on edge, a sixth forming the bottom, and completing a box-like 
receptacle. The urns, though differing in ornamentation and 

Fig. 86. -Systematic arrangement of Cists in a Tumulus in the county Down. 
From the Ulster Journal of ' Arc/iaelegy. 

shape, were of uniform size, averaging in capacity a quart 
measure. Calcined bones and charcoal mingled with gravel, 
showed that the bodies, prior to deposition in the cists, had been 
burned on a gravelly soil, and that in gathering up the remains 
grayel had been taken up with them. Each cist was 3 feet long 
by 18 inches wide ; the urn was invariablv at the north-west 

fin™f"- .V th , - ■ f entw tbe cam ™s closely and regularly 
tilled with smah cists, but neither cists nor urns were found on 


the north side, although the exterior presented a uniform appear- 
ance to that on the south (fig. 86). 

The assembling of the Irish peasantry at funerals and wakes, 
and the keening may be described in the Latin lines, of which the 
following is a free translation : — 

" Delaying not they hasten, speeding fast, 

And reach the house, to find a medley strange, 
Chaotic cries of grief, with turmoil mixed, 
While from the arched chamber, far within, 
The piercing shrieks of mourning women ring, 
Re-echoing to the stars." 

In the islands off the west coast of Ireland, where ancient 
superstitions still linger in greatest exuberance, no funeral wail 
is allowed to be raised until three hours have elapsed from the 
time of death, as the sound of lamentation might hinder the soul 
from leaving the body, and would also place the many demons 
lying in wait for it on the alert. 

At an Irish wake the keener is almost invariably an aged 
woman : or if she be comparatively young, the habits of her life 
make her look old. Mr. and Mrs. Hall state that they remember 
one, " whom the artist has pictured from our description (fig. 87). 
We can never forget a scene in which she 
played a conspicuous part. A young man had 
been shot by the police as he was resisting 
a warrant for his arrest. He was of ' decent 
people,' and had a ' fine wake.' The woman, 
when we entered the apartment, was sitting 
on a low stool by the side of the corpse. Her 
long black uncombed locks were hanging 
about her shoulders ; her eyes were the deep 
set greys peculiar to the country, and which K ram Mr7*M™.HaH ; » 
are capable of every expression, from the Ireland. 

bitterest hatred and the direst revenge to 
the softest and warmest affection. Her large blue cloak was 
confined at her throat, but not so closely as to conceal the outline 
of her figure, thin and gaunt, but exceedingly lithesome. When 
she arose, as if by sudden inspiration, first holding out her hands 
over the body, and then tossing them wildly above her head, she 
continued her chaunt in a low monotonous tone, occasionally 
breaking into a style earnest and animated, and using every 
variety of attitude to give emphasis to her words, and enforce 
her description of the virtues and good qualities of the deceased. 
' Swift and sure was his foot,' she said, ' on hill and valley. 
His shadow struck terror to his foes ; he could look the sun in 
the face like an eagle ; the whirl of his weapon through the air 



was fast and terrible as the lightning. There had been Ml and 
plenty in his father's house, and the traveller never left it empty ; 
but the tyrants had taken all except his heart's blood, and that 
they took at last. The girls of the mountain may cry by the 
running streams, and weep for the flower of the country, but he 
would return no more. He was the last of his father's house ; 
but his people were many both on hill and valley ; and they 
would revenge his death!' Then, kneeling, she clenched her 
hands together, and cursed bitter curses against whoever had 
aimed the fatal bullet— curses which illustrate but too forcibly the 
fervour of Irish hatred. ' May the light fade from your eyes, so 
that you may never see what you love ! May the grass grow at 
your door ! May you fade into nothing, like snow in summer ! 
May your own blood rise against ye, and the sweetest drink ye 
take be the bitterest cup of sorrow ! May ye die without benefit 
of priest or clergy.' To each of her curses tbere was a deep 
' Amen,' which the ban caointhe paused to hear, and then resumed 
her maledictions." 


Mo laoch fern u, laoch mo laoch. Le^nabli 1110 leanabh, ghil cna— dmh. 
O my own youth, youth of my youth. Child of my child, gentle, valiant. 


Mo chroidbe lium nich mar long, Gulath bhrach cha n'ei— — rich Of — car, 

My heart cries like a blackbird's. For ever gone, never to rife, O Ofcar. 

Fig. 88. 

Maibh Rann Oscar — The Death-song of Oscar. From the 1'ransactwiis, 
Royal Irish Academy. 

Fig. 88 is the alleged keen of Finn Mac Cool over the 
corpse of his grandson Oscar, slain at the battle of Gabhra in 
the third century. The music was preserved in the wilds of 
Connaught, and in the Highlands of Scotland, the tune being 
nearly the same. Poetry and music are apparently coeval and 
of comparatively late date, having originated in the Bardic school 
of the Province of Connaught, a fountain from whence flowed 
many of those Irish ballads and romances which have, in these 
latter ages, become the foundation of the numerous ideal super- 
structures relative to the history and antiquities of this island. 

The power of the keen, as a vehicle for conveying the senti- 
ments of the heart, has, in the present day, completely vanished \ 


the Irish, like the Jews, Arabs, and other nations lamented over 
the dead, uttering cries of grief, tearing their hair, demanding of 
the deceased, " Why did he die ? " " Had he not food, raiment, 
and friends : why then did he die ? " Thomas Dineley, in the 
account of his tour through Ireland in the reign of Charles II., 
compares the funeral customs of some of the Carribbee Islanders 
to those of the Irish of his day. He mentions the " howlings 
and lamentations" practised by these savages over the dead 
body, "to which they add the most ridiculous and nonsensical 
discourses imaginable, and not much unlike the vulgar Irish. 
They talk to him of the best fruits their country doth afford, 
telling him that he might have eaten of them as much as he 
would. They put him in mind of the love his family had for 
him, and his reputation, &c, reproaching him, above all, for 
dying, as if it had been in his power to prevent it, as for example 
they tell him : : — 

"'Thou might'st have lived so well and made so good cheer, 
thou didst want neither manioe nor potatoes, bananas nor 

" ' As the Irish.' 

" ' Thou didst want nor usquebaugh (whiskey), oat cakes, sweet 
milk, bonny clobber (cheese), mallahaune (sour buttermilk), 
dillisk (an edible sea-weed), slugane (sloak), and good spoals 
(joints of meat). How is then that thou didst die ? Thou didst 
live in so great esteem with all men everyone did love and respect 
thee : what is the matter, then, that thou art dead ? Thy friends 
and relations were so kind to thee ; their greatest care was only 
to please thee, and to let thee lack nothing : pray tell us, then, 
why didst thou think of dying ? Thou wast so useful and 
serviceable to the country ; thou hadst signalized thyself in so 
many battles ; thou wast our defence and security from the assault 
and fury of our enemies : why is it, then, that thou art dead ? ' 
Which last words are always the burden of the howl and 
song to both people, and the conclusion of all these complaints, 
which they repeat a thousand times, reckoning over all the 
actions of his life with all the advantages wherewith he was 

O'Brien, in his Irish Dictionary, described the keen as com- 
prising a lamentation of the dead, according to certain loud and 
mournful notes and verses " wherein the pedigree, land, property, 
generosity, and good actions of the deceased person and his 
ancestors are diligently and harmoniously recounted in order to 
excite pity and compassion in the hearers, and to make them 
sensible of their great loss in the death of the person they lament." 

One of these modern keens attracted the notice of the poet 
Orabbe, who described it as very pathetic, the more so, as in it, 


as in many of its class, there is no suggested Christian consola- 
tion, no implied reunion in a quiet, far off country ; all is un- 
qualified grief and, on that account alone, most deeply melancholy. 
Though stated to have been composed in the commencement 
of the nineteenth century it is pure paganism. Its beautiful 
simplicity is in part sacrificed by its rendering into verse, so it 
is first given in the literal translation of Crofton Croker : — 

" Cold and silent is thy bed ; damp is the blessed dew of 
night ; but the sun will bring warmth and heat in the morning, 
and dry up the dew. But my heart cannot feel heat from the 
morning sun ; no more will the print of your footsteps be seen 
in the morning dew on the mountains of Ivera, where you had 
so often hunted the fox and the hare, ever foremost amongst 
your men. Cold and silent is now thy bed. 

" My sunshine you were, I loved you better than the sun 
itself, and when I see the sun going down in the west I think of 
my boy and of my black night of sorrow. Like the rising sun, 
he had a red glow on his cheek. He was as bright as the sun at 
midday ; but a dark storm came on, and my sunshine was lost 
to me for ever. My sunshine will never again come back. No, 
my boy cannot return. Cold and silent is his bed. 

" Life-blood of my heart ; for the sake of my boy I eared only 
for this world. He was brave ; he was generous ; he was noble- 
minded ; he was beloved by rich and poor ; he was clear-skinned. 
But why should I tell what everyone knows ? Why should I 
now go back to what never can be more ? He who was every- 
thing to me is dead. He is gone for ever : he will return no 
more. Cold and silent is his repose ! " 

The following is a paraphrase of the foregoing keen : — 

" Oh ! silent and cold is thy lonely repose, 

Though chilly and damp falls' the mist of the night ; 
Yet the sun shall hring joys with the morn, and the dews 

Shall vanish before his keen arrows of light ; 
But the pulses of life in thy bosom no more 

Shall vibrate, nor morning awaken thine eye ; 
No more shalt thou wander thy native hills o'er, 

The green hills of Erin, that bloom to the sky ; 
And childhood's gay scenes, when thy soul undented, 

Fust felt the dear blossoms of friendship unclose, 
Where infancy's features in playfulness smiled ; 

But ah ! cold and silent is now thy repose ! 

" Thou wert dearer to me than the sun in the west, 
When he tinges with crimson the skirts of the sea ; 
But memory weeps, and my soul is distressed ; 
When I look on his beauty, I think upon thee ' 


In youth thou wert like him, all blooming and gay ';' 

And soft was the down on thy cheek, as the rose ; 
In the splendour of manhood, like him at rmddav ; 

But thy fate was untimely, and early thy close, 
He rises again when his journey is o'er, 

But thy life has been dimm'd hy misfortune and woes ; 
Thou hast sunk to thy rest to return no more, 

For ah ! cold and silent is now thy repose. 

" Oh ! thou who now sleepest in earth's narrow hed, 

As the nerve of my throbbing heart thou wert to me, 
And with thee all the charms of the world are fled, 

For though it was dear, it was dear but for thee. 
Thou wert generous and good : thou wert nohle and just, 

In the morning of life thou wert beauteous and brave ; 
But why look on virtue and worth that are past? 

For he who possessed them is gone to the grave ; 
Or why call to memory the scenes that ore o'er 'i 

The floweret is hid in dark evening's close ; 
From the night of the tomb shall it blossom no more, 

For ah ! cold and silent is now thy repose." 

There is in this the deep pathos of the Greek poet, when he 
tearfully appeals to the human heart, and contrasts the lot of 
man with the flowers of the field, which renew their growth in 
the spring-time, while man, with all his vaunted superiority, 
once laid to rest in his dark and narrow bed, sleeps the sleep 
which knows no awaking. 

A most touching lament, a keen of genuine and bitter grief, 
was taken down from the lips of a bereaved mother some years ago, 
and is thus given by Lady Wilde in a literal English version : — 

" women, look on me ! Look on me, women ! Have you 
ever seen sorrow like mine ? Have you ever seen the like of me 
in my sorrow ? Arrah, then, my darling ! my darling ! 'tis your 
mother that calls you. How long you are sleeping. Do you see 
all the people round you, my darling, and sorely weeping ? 
Arrah, what is this paleness on your face ? Sure, there was no 
equal to it in Erin for beauty and fairness, and your hair was 
heavy as the wing of a raven, and your skin was whiter than the 
hand of a lady. Is it the stranger must carry me to my grave, 
and my son lying here ? " 

The following keen of an Irish mother over her dead son was 
written by Mrs. Hemans, in imitation of this peculiar style of 
lamentation : — 

" Darkly the cloud of night come rolling on ; 
Darker is thy repose, my fair-hair* d son. 

Silent and dark. 
There is blood upon the threshold 

Whence thy step went forth at morn, 
Like a dancer's in its flectne.-s, 
Oh, my bright first-born. 


" At the glad sound of that footstep, . 

My heart within. me smiled ; 

Thou wert Drought back all silent 

On thy bier, my child. 
Darkly the cloud of night comes rolling on ; 
Darker is thy repose, my fair-hair'd son. 
Silent and dark. 

' ' I thought to see thy children 
Laugh on me with thine eyefi ; 
But my sorrow's voice is lonely 
Where my life's-flower lies. 

"I shall go to sit beside thee, 
Thy kindred graves among ; 
I shall hear the tall grass whisper ; 

I shall hear it not long. 
Darkly the cloud of night comes rolling on ; 
Darker is thy repose, my fair-hair'd son. 
Silent and dark. 

' ' And I too shall find slumber 

With my lost one, in the earth ; 
Let none light up the ashes 
Again, on our hearth. 

' ' Let the roof go down, let silence 
On the home for ever fall, 
Where my boy lay cold, and heard not 

His lone mother's call. 
Darkly the cloud of night comes rolling on ; 
Darker is thy repose, my fair-hair'd son. 

Silent and dark. 

Wakes, and the customs attached to them, portray varied 
phases of life in long past ages, and the idiosyncrasies of the 
people are no where so well displayed as at these meetings, 
where tragedy and comedy, all that is stern and all that is 
humorous in Irish character, are displayed in unfettered freedom. 
Transition from deepest sorrow to mirth occurs with the greatest 
rapidity, so that there is melancholy in their mirth, and mirth 
in their melancholy. Great dramatic talent was displayed by 
the actors of certain plays, games, and sports performed at these 
meetings- A peasant who saw, for the first time, a play at one 
of the Dublin theatres, said : "I have now seen the great English 
actors, and heard plays in the English tongue, but poor and dull 
they seemed to me, after the acting of our own people at the 
wakes and fairs ; for it is a truth the English cannot make us 
weep and laugh, as I have seen the crowds with us, when the 
players played and the poets recited their stories." 

At wakes, plays, games, or sports were in use, which appear 
to have been essentially of pagan origin, and of such a character 
that, although at first tolerated, yet in more civilized days they 


were suppressed. The game usually first performed, termed 
" Bout," was joined in by men and women. Pagan influence 
and pagan modes of thought may be traced all through 
various plays, as, for example, in that of " The Cow and the 

The play entitled " The Building of the Ship" was divided 
into scenes or acts, severally entitled, " Laying the Keel," 
"Placing the Stem and Stern Post," "Painting the Ship," 
"Erecting the Mast," and "Launching," or "Drawing the 
Ship out of the Mud." 

In the first proceedings the laying down of the keel, several 
lads were placed on their backs in line, on the floor. The 
hierophant, or master of the ceremonies, accompanied by his 
attendants, then walked on the row, tapping them pretty smartly 
with his wand or stick, to ascertain if the timber was sound. 

The stem and stern posts were then put into position by 
pla.cing two young men at the end of the line in a sitting posture. 
The ribs and planking were then arranged. These consisted of a 
double line of young men, the first row lying, the second sitting. 
The body of the ship being completed, the master of the cere- 
monies, followed by one of his attendants, walked down on the 
line of legs representing the ribs, kicking and striking them to 
see that the timbers were sound, examining the rivets, and giving 
an opinion as to whether they were sound or not. 

When the inspection was finished, needless to say, after 
much severe practical joking, a huge bucket of dirty water and 
a mop were produced. The water was then poured over the 
performers, to represent the process of painting. 

In erecting the mast, one of the youngest of the lads was 
selected, placed in the centre of the ship as a mast, and gestures, 
expressions, and acts were used, proving that this part of the 
play was an undoubted relic of the most primitive times. 

In launching or drawing the ship out of the mud, the men 
engaged in the performance actually presented themselves before 
the assembled company in a state of nudity. It would be now 
difficult to obtain further details. Those here given were ex- 
tracted from old countrymen, a little from one, and a little from 
the other, the fragments then pieced together. When inquiries 
were instituted of one informant regarding the ceremony of 
" erecting the mast," he looked surprised, and said, "Lord, how 
did you know that ? it 's nearly sixty years since I saw it, and 
sure the priests won't let it be acted now." The foregoing 
account of this play is corroborated by Lady Wilde in her 
description of Wake Games. 

The play entitled " The building of the fort " was filled 
with sarcasms on various Christian rites and customs. The 


•erection of one of these ancient strongholds must have been 
inaugurated by the tribe with great ceremony, and the play was 
evidently a relic of the time-honoured pagan custom. 

When space had been cleared in the centre of the room where 
the wake was held, the actors entered, wearing masks, and fan^ 
•tastically attired, carrying long poles for spears, plaited straw on 
the arms, to represent shields, and went through the form of 
building a fort, tracing out the shape with their spears. Whilst 
thus engaged, a new set of actors, also masked and armed, repre- 
senting their enemies, appeared, and a general fight ensued, until 
■a horn was sounded, when to save further bloodshed, it was pro- 
posed that a single combat should be arranged between the two 
leaders of thehostileforces. After a well-sustained fight one comba- 
tant fell, as if mortally wounded, and was immediately surrounded 
by women in cloaks, with the hoods drawn over their heads, who 
keened over the fallen warrior, whilst a bard recited his exploits, 
and pipers played martial music. 

It was then suggested that the prostrate man was not dead, 
and an herb-doctor, arrayed with white flowing beard, carrying 
a huge bundle of herbs, was led in, and went through sundry 
strange incantations. The fallen man then came to life, and was 
carried off by his comrades with shouts of triumph. This con- 
-cluded the play — a very good epitome of ancient Irish life. 

It may be well to give typical examples of a restored stone 
fortress, or cashel, as also of an earthen fort, the laying out and 
building of which form the subject-matter of the wake-play just 

The prominent feature of the primitive architecture of the 
early inhabitants of Ireland is uniformity and simplicity of 
■design ; the circle, sometimes slightly deviating into an oval, 
being characteristic of their villages, their camps, and their indi- 
vidual dwellings. Whether raised above the surface or below it, 
the same architectural uniformity of shape is everywhere dis- 
played. Fig. 89 is a bird's-eye view of Dun Conor, one of the 
finest cashels in the Aran group, as it would appear if restored. 
The innermost enclosure, or fort proper, is of a long oval form— 
227 feet by 115 — and the wall has two facings and a central core. 
The innermost wall is 7 feet thick, the interior core 5 feet 
■6 inches, and the outer face of an equal size ; the greater depth 
of the interior face was to allow for the weakening of the 
work by the different flights of steps taken out of its thickness. 
Thus a triple compacted wall was formed 18 feet wide, and still 
in places nearly 20 feet in height, with a considerable inward 
slope or batter on both faces. The outer and inner compartments 
of the wall rose, at the summit, several feet above the central 
•core, thus forming on either side a highly efficient breastwork. 


On the north-eastern curve of the rampart is a semi-circular 
enclosure, pierced on its eastern side by a doorway ; its unusual 
size suggests the idea that it was intended for the admission of 
cattle ; a smaller doorway led through the second wall. Upon 
the western side of the cashel no outworks were required, a pre- 
cipitous cliff answering all requirements for the protection of the 
hold. In the year 1839 many. remains of bee-hive shaped huts, 
represented in the illustration, were to be seen within the inner 
enclosure. An array of narrow flagstones, in the form of a rude 
(■heraux de frise, originally encircled nearly the whole of the outer 

Probably the most remarkable and typical remains of the rath 
class is the great work of Eathkeltain, close to Downpatrick, 
2100 feet in circumference, with three ramparts (fig. 90). The 
central mound (a usual feature) is 60 feet in height ; the principal 
rampart of the same elevation is in places 30 feet broad. Fig. 91 
is an ideal restoration of a rath after a study of this great earthen 
fortress, as well as other typical raths. 

"Turning the spit" and "Selling the pig" are the desig- 
nations of two plays commonly acted at Irish wakes. " The 
game of the Eope " and that of "The Horse Fair" appear 
to have been also favourite pastimes. The following descrip- 
tion of them was given by a peasant to Lady Wilde : " Two short 
ropes, made of hay, and twisted as hard as they can be made, are 
held by two men, standing on each side of a chair placed at some 
little distance from the corpse, lying in the coffin. Then a young 
man is led forward, who takes his seat on the chair, and they ask 
him who is his sweetheart. If he objects to tell them, they beat 
him till he names one of the girls present; then he is asked 
would he like to kiss her, and they beat him till he answers yes. 
The girl is then led over and seated on the chair, whilst the lover 
kisses her ; but as he is beaten all the time with the rope, he 
makesthe ceremony as brief as possible. The girl is then asked 
if she is content, and, sometimes, for fun, she tells them that the 
lover they gave her had no idea of a proper kiss at all, on which 
the young man is beaten again with ropes, till he cries out that 
he will try again. But the girl won't have him ; and so the same 
game goes on, till every young man in the room has been seated 
on the chair in succession, and every girl has been kissed." 

In the game of the " Horse Fair," the hierophant, holding a 
brogue in his hand, ties a string of youngsters together as horses, 
and drives them round the circle, while another man drags them 
on by the rope, striking any who are restive with the brogue. 
A blacksmith and a horse-dealer examine the horses, and put 
them through their paces. Any short, stout young fellow is 
named the "Cob," another with long legs the " Race Horse " 


a good-natured looking young man is the "Pony," and the 
horse-dealer then declares he must see them jump before he 
bids for them. "So a great circle is made, a man being 
in the centre, bent as in leap-frog, for them to leap over, 
while the young girls sit round, and the best jumper is 
allowed the privilege of choosing the maiden he likes best, and 
giving her a salute. The young horses generally succeed in the 
jump, the reward is so attractive, though two men are never 
allowed to kiss the same girl. Should one man fail in the jump, 
lie is derided and beaten with brogues, and ordered to be sent for 
further training, and the smith is desired to see to his shoes. So 
he is laid fiat on the ground, while the smith examines his shoes, 
and beats the sole of the foot with a big stick to see if a nail is 
loose, and wants to be fastened : but then his sweetheart inter- 
venes, and he is let off, and even allowed to salute her as a recom- 
pense for all he has gone through." 

A gentleman who had the opportunity of collecting accounts 
of many wanton orgies which disgraced wakes, particularly in the 
province of Munster, says : " The highly obscene manner of the 
dance called 'Droghedy' is very objectionable. . . . Tradition 
also relates that females used to perform on these occasions as 
well as men." 

A similarity to Irish wake orgies can be traced in the rites 
used by many savage tribes : for instance, in the Irish series of 
" the Building of the Ship " and the games of some of the Indians 
commemorative of the "Big Canoe." An early missionary 
reported that he had experienced comparatively little difficulty in 
converting one of the tribes of the Feejee Islanders to an acknow- 
ledgment of Christianity, but found it impossible to induce them 
to forego the obscenities enacted between death and the interment 
of the corpse. This may be a mere coincidence, but at least it is 
a most remarkable one. 

Some modern "round games" in which young people in 
every class of society indulge, were played at Irish wakes ; but it 
is evident they were of comparatively modern introduction. 

The Church may have tolerated the acting of these plays, at 
certain seasons of the year, as she did the performance of some- 
what similar burlesques elsewhere, or she may have anathe- 
matised the plays, or the actors who performed in them : be that 
as it may, her teachings were ridiculed to her face, up to a few 
years ago, by professing members of her fold ; and it is possible 
that in many places these plays are even yet acted, but probably 
in a modified form. It is, however, right to state that in later 
times the peasantry who practised them had "no idea of outraging 
propriety or religion in their performance, holding an unquestion- 
ing faith in the old traditions that such observances were right 



and proper at wakes, whilst under any other circumstances they 
would shrink with horror from such indelicate exhibitions." 

Keels, with their other aliases, are ancient burial places, 
originally quite unconnected with Christian remains or associa- 
tions, and where still made use of, it is, as a rule, solely for the 
interment of suicides, unknown strangers, and unbaptized children. 
Suicides, as a matter of course, are by their own act (theologi- 
cally) deprived of a desirable hereafter. To the savage and un- 
cultured mind all unknown strangers are necessarily enemies. 
The first very young child that dies in a family should be carried 
to one of these burial places : if it be buried in consecrated 
ground, two others will follow it. Many of the peasantry believe 
that the souls of unbaptized children are blind and imprisoned 
within these keels, or within fairy raths, and that their souls " go 
into naught." A somewhat similar idea is found in Longfellow's 
Evangeline, where there is an allusion to — 

"The white Utiche, the ghost of a child who, unehristened, 
Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers of children." 

Wherever an unbaptized child is buried there is a " stray 
sod." If you unintentionally step upon this particular spot at 
night you are kept wandering until sunrise. Even turning your 
coat and waistcoat inside out (the charm against fairy influence) 
is no safeguard ; when day breaks you will find yourself miles 
distant from home. The idea embodied in this superstition occurs 
in a cure for a sick cow. You take the piece of turf on which the 
animal first treads when rising, hang it on the wall and the cow 
recovers. Bishop Corbet, in his Iter Boreale, thus alludes to the 
supposed charm of turning the coat as a guard against fairy 

. AVilliam found 
A means for our deliverance, • Turn your cloakes,' 
Quoth hee, ' for Pucke is busy in these oakes ; 
If ever wee at Bosworth will he found, 
Then turn your cloakes. for this is fairy ground.' " 

It may be of use to benighted individuals to know that a sprig 
of furze or gorse, carried about the person, secures the wayfarer 
against straying on mountain or moorland. 

Tradition, together with the still existing superstitions of the 
peasantry, and other facts already noticed, indicate that many of 
the keels were undoubtedly pagan cemeteries. Their preservation, 
in such numbers, is duo to an undefined feeling of dread of some 
calamity should they be injured, yet no persuasion will induce 
the peasantry to bury their honoured dead within their precincts. 


That the term keel must have been used by the old pagans to 
designate a cemetery may be inferred from many examples. In 
the county Cork an ancient burial place is styled Cealnadruath, 
the burial place of the Druids ; the townland of Killamucky 
commemorates the burial place of a magical boar ; the name 
cannot well signify the " the church of the pig." Kilcro should 
not be translated " the bloody church," nor should Kilmacat be 
rendered the " cat's church." Killtemplan and Templenakilla do 
not mean " the church of the church," but " the church of the 
keel or cemetery," and Kealkill and Kilkillan belong to the same 
class of nomenclature. 

A good specimen of a connecting link between the pagan 
keel with its old-world ceremonies and Christian rites is afforded 
by observances which were formerly practised at Ballyvourney, 
county Cork, at a keel or low earn, composed of stones and earth, 
evidently an ancient pagan cemetery. On the summit of the 
mound lay a bullan, with a circular cavity or basin, overshadowed 
with low-growing bushes on which hung rags of various colours, 
votive offerings of pilgrims who were accustomed to encircle the 
mound upon their knees in the course of the sun. Persons 
afflicted with bodily ailments resorted hither, esteeming earth 
from the mound and rain water from the bullan, to be specifics 
for their complaints. It was also a great resort of cripples ; a 
regular array of sticks and crutches was deposited on the 
tumulus by professional mendicants who pretended to have been 
cured in order to enhance the reputation of the place, as large 
crowds upon patron days brought considerable sums into their 

When a murder, or supposed murder, was perpetrated, it was 
customary in former times, as the funeral proceeded to the 
graveyard, to carry the corpse to the house of the person 
suspected of having committed the crime. It was laid down at 
the door, whilst the relatives of the deceased, dropping on then- 
knees, gave vent to thedeepest imprecations, and invoked the wrath 
of offended heaven on the head of the suspected murderer (fig. 1)2). 
In cases where the crime was self-evident, the door was closed 
and the house abandoned, but if the accused had a sufficient 
following the intruders were repelled by physical force ; in cases 
where the crime was doubtful, or unjustly imputed, those thus 
visited came out of the house, and laying their right hand upon 
the corpse or coffin, invoked heaven to witness to the truth of 
their denial. 

The funeral is looked upon as a most important function. 
The aged peasant, incapacitated from labour, and able only to 
sit in the chimney corner from morning till night, will in mind 
be busily occupied with all the details of his last journey. In 

y z 



many country districts, even in the present day, about the only 
neighbourly feeling displayed amongst all classes of the com- 
munity is shown in attending funerals. Although the attendant 
has been unacquainted with the deceased, yet if he be a neighbour, 
not to go to the funeral is considered a slight to the corpse. 

The countryman's ambition for a " good funeral" is unbounded, 
and the arrangements and expenditure on that occasion are, for 
his income, princely, for a sum of money equal perhaps to three 
years' rent, will be required to cover the priest's fees, the cost of 
refreshments for friends and neighbours, and the hire of pro- 
fessional mourners. " The imposing funeral procession, the 

Fig. 92. 

The Challenge to the Ordeal. From Mr. and Mrs. Hall's Ireland. 

rear often brought up by as many as fifty mounted men, will not 
tail to strike the visitor in a very forcible way, and any casual 
onlooker from whom he may make inquirv, will be found 
enormously pleased to give him a full account of the life and 
death of the departed, a full summary of his estimable qualities 
and a complete family history, into the bargain. ' Your riverance ' 
said a messenger to the priest engaged in preparations for the 
approaching cortege, ' the brother of the corpse would be plaised 
to have a word wid ye,' is truly Irish, illustrative of the para- 
mount importance of the deceased on the occasion of his 


It is well to see ourselves as others see us, and the following 
graphic description of a funeral in the island of Achill observed, 
in the year 1897, by an Englishman, presents a typical picture 
of the usual funeral procession in the wilds of Western Ireland: — 

" I saw a singular procession winding sinuously down the 
opposite cliff, and surely no stranger sight was ever seen within 
the bounds of the British Isles. Men and women on horseback 
(for the poorest peasant owns a ' garran '), the men attired in 
the conventional costume of the Irish high holiday, to wit, tall 
hats, breeches, and dress cut coats of thick frieze ; the women 
barefoot as usual, but with feet well washed, the short red kirtle 
reaching to the knee, the head and shoulders swathed in brilliant- 
coloured shawls, the man astride in front, the woman balancing 
herself sideways on the crupper, all riding bare-backed, all guid- 
ing their yellowish steeds by means of a bridle of plaited straw. 
Sometimes there were three on a horse, never less than two, and 
there might be fifty horses proceeding at a slow pace, accom- 
panied by some fifty women on fooc. In the middle of the funeral 
train was one of the flat carts used in Connaught, with two short 
shafts for tilting purposes prominent behind, and on it the 
humble coffin of unplaned deal, with a sheet of paper — which 
may have borne the name and age of the deceased, with perhaps 
a prayer or two — tacked over the breast. The poorest Irish dis- 
play an inordinate affection for their dead, and in Achill the 
nearest relatives testify their love and respect by sitting on the 
coffin during its progress to the graveyard. On this occasion the 
poor widow who had lost her son by drowning in Blacksod Bay 
occupied this position, accompanied by her daughter, a good-look- 
ing girl of twenty years or so. . . . On went the strange proces- 
sion of the long line of riders, with the tanned complexions of 
the women, their jet black hair, their naked limbs dangling on 
the horses flanks, and the bright colours of their attire, strongly 
remindful of Buffalo Bill's North American Indians, save that the 
Indian women wore moccasins. Here and there isolated dwellers 
in villages lying off the route emerged on horseback, with the in- 
variable ' God be with you ' in Irish, to which came the invariable 
reply, ' God and the Virgin be with you.' Now and then were 
seen women seated by the ditches, and by washing their feet 
achieving, at a blow, the distinction of full dress. All were 
speaking in Irish, modulating their tones to a sympathetic 
cadence and incidentally showing the instinctive good breed- 
ing which must be credited to the race. . . . The way 
was long, but at last the cortege turned sharply to the right, 
towards a hamlet on the mountain side. Somewhat short of it 
was a rudely-walled enclosure, without any chapel, lych-gate, or 
shelter of any kind, a wilderness of dense-growing nettles, among 



which the bare-footed women walked and pushed their way with 
profound indifference to the stings, each lifting her voice in the 
Irish wail at the moment the coffin passed the graveyard wall. 
Echoing up the mountain, resounding over the lake hard by, 
never surely was heard a more fearsome chant. Beginning on a 
high note, the voices descended together in a sort of chromatic 
scale, not unlike the cry of the starling at certain seasons, the 
chorus numbering by this time at least a hundred women, whose 
lungs equalled their enthusiasm, the men remaining silent, 
placing the coffin by the family grave, and waiting until pre- 
scriptive custom brought their turn to act. Presently the ' keen ' 
(fig. 93) subsided, and the crowd dispersed among the graves, many 
throwing themselves at full length among the nettles and clasping 
the poor mound in an agony of grief, kissing it and calling in 
heart-broken accents to the dead, with many bitter tears. Mean- 
while two young fellows were digging the grave, the widow and 
her daughter sitting on the coffin a jard away, and watching 
every stroke. . . . The mourners, having paid respect to the 
family graves, sat in rows and smoked twist tobacco from new 
pipes of very thick clay, a young fellow going round (to both 
sexes) with a burning turf, brought from the neighbouring Ullage, 
between two sticks. The grave being ready, the depth less than 
two feet, the coffin was placed therein, and then the mother came 
forward, while the crowd surrounded her as critical spectators. 

The Keen 

Fit;. 93. 
From Mr. and Mrs. Hall's Ireland. 

Kneeling on the grass, and looking down upon the coffin, the 
poor widow broke into rapid ejaculations of anguish, clasping her 
hands, swaying to and fro, recounting her boy's good qualities, 
bewailing his unhappy end, and expressing her irremediable 
heart-break. Suddenly she threw herself full-length into the 
grave, and clasping the coffin, fainted away. She was removed 
and water thrown upon her, upon which she recovered, and the 
daughter came forward with a precisely similar programme, only 
stopping short of insensibility. Then the men shovelled in the 
earth, replaced the pieces of rock which marked the grave, and 
the procession returned to Dnpfort, the two chief mourners sitting 
on the cart, which closely resembled a costeruionger's barrow. 
There was no priest, nor any kind of religions service, save that 


an old man, who acted as director of ceremonies, proposed at the 
close that all ' the boys ' should stand up and say a silent prayer. 
He then sprinkled holy water from a lemonade bottle, and the 
funeral was over." 

It is very unlucky to dig a grave on a Monday, but having 
once commenced, the grave-diggers must finish the work, no 
change of labourers being allowed. In one instance where the 
sexton was taken ill no one could be induced to complete the 
grave, so he had to rise from his sick bed and finish it himself. 

If a death should occur in a family the last, or last but one 
day of the year, special care is taken to dig the grave — at least 
partially — on the last day of December, and thus avoid opening 
a new grave and a new year together. 

According to Irish ms. authority many barbarities are to be 
met with in the tales relating to ancient warriors, who appear to 
have been addicted to an habitual savagery. An Irish warrior, 
when he killed his enemy, broke his skull, extracted his brains, 
mixed up the mass well, and working the compound into a ball 
carefully dried it in the sun, and afterwards produced it as a 
trophy of former valour, and a presage of future victory. " Take 
out its brains therefrom," was ConalPs speech to his attendant, 
who declared he could not carry Mesgegra's head, " and ply a 
sword upon it, and bear the brain with me, and mix lime there- 
with, and make a ball thereof." Such trophies are described as 
being the object of pride and contention among the chiefs, and 
Mesgegra's brain being captured from Conall by C'et, was hurled 
at Conor, and caused his death. The above-mentioned Mes- 
gegra, King of Leinster, was killed in single combat by Conal 
Cornach, who cut off his head and laid it down on a stone. 
Legend records that the blood pouring from the cranium pierced 
the stone and flowed through it into the ground. The oblong 
limestone boulder, of which this story is recounted, is a bullan 
of the usual type. On the cliffs of the mainland, opposite Tory 
Island, a similar story is told of the blood which gushed from 
Balor's head. 

In the Annuls of Vlonnuicnoi.v it is stated that when Muir- 
chertach "of the leathern cloaks," who lived in the middle of 
the tenth century, carried off the body of Cerbhall, King of 
Leinster, he caused a chess-board to be formed of his bones. 
Other instances of utilizing the osseous remains of a dead adver- 
sary were, in ancient times, not uncommon. We have the 
practice recorded of warriors cutting off the point of the tongue 
by every man they slew and carrying it in their pouches. Carry- 
ing the heads of the slain at their girdle, first noted by Strabo 
and Diodorus Siculus, is clearly implied in the tale called the 
" Siege of Howth." In the story of " Echtra Nenti," the hero 


is said to have seen a heap of heads, cut off by the warriors of 
the fort. This calls to mind the piles of heads described by 
travellers as occurring at the entrance to the residences of African 
chiefs. The Irish chiefs of olden day knew that if they fell alive 
into the hands of their enemies they were likely to be shortened 
of a head. Finn Mac Cool's celebrated wolf-hound, Bran, was, 
like his master, gifted in a remarkable degree with fore-knowledge 
of evil, and thus was enabled to give the chief many warnings 
and to guard him from danger. Once, when the Feni had 
suffered defeat, Bran showed the deepest dejection, and lying 
down at his master's feet, lifted up his head and howled, upon 
which Finn remarked : — " It is likely, my dog, that our heads 
are in great danger this day." The decapitation of enemies, or 
of the corpses of those fallen in battle, appears to have been a 
usual custom in Ireland. In the year 862 " one hundred heads 
of foreigners " were exhibited to the victorious Irish chiefs. Two 
. years later the Danes were defeated in Lough Foyle ; their heads 
were collected in presence of the king, " and twelve score heads 
were reckoned before him " ; in the same year, when the men of 
Westmeath defeated the Connaught forces at Athlone, there was 
" a slaughter of heads left behind." Giraldus Cambrensis men- 
tions that at the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion the Irish 
soldiery collected about two hundred of the heads of their fallen 
enemies, and piled them before Dermod, King of Ireland. In 
1396, an Anglo-Irish force was defeated and " six score (of their 
heads) were carried for exhibition before O'Toole." In reading 
the foregoing records one is irresistibly reminded of the sculptured 
representations of similar scenes on the ancient has reliefs of 
Assyria and of Egypt, where we see piles of heads of the slain 
placed before the conqueror, and the Royal scribes depicted 
taking an account of their number. It may be said that all this 
is mere documentary evidence, but material evidence corroborates 
these mss. descriptions. In a sepulchral mound at Aylesbury- 
road, near Donnybrook, in the county Dublin (removed in 1879 
for building purposes) skulls were discovered in heaps, without 
other parts of human skeletons. There were several piles, all in 
an injured condition. The opinion the discoverers held was, that 
after being cut off, the heads were rolled about or treated with 
extreme violence, and the bones broken, previously to their being- 
gathered into heaps. In one group, consisting of eight skulls, 
the facial bones were all smashed into fragments. The mound 
was probably of the eighth or ninth century at earliest. 

Careful perusal and analysis of the accounts of the best and 
most methodical explorations carried out by qualified observers 
of the interments of the former inhabitants of Ireland, throw a 
flood of light on the ideas regarding a future state held by these 


men of the eld. In addition to osseous human remains, ancient 
pagan cemeteries contain numerous bones of animals. These 
latter relics indicate that the obsequies of the dead were accom- 
panied by huge funeral feasts and cannibalistic orgies, an idea 
which receives confirmation from the fact that excavations, 
exhibiting perfect sections of pits sunk in the ground, are observ- 
able. These excavations were probably used to cook animal food, 
according to the well-known method in vogue amongst the ancient 
Irish. Many traces of fractured shells of Crustacea;, of fish and 
bird bones, show that the viands were varied. Shells are also 
usually found in the cists with the dead. May not the presence 
of cockle or other shells in undoubted early Christian interments 
be a survival of this ancient custom, the shell-fish to be used as 
food by the tenants of the graves on their long journey. In most 
of the early prehistoric graves opened in England, Scotland, 
Ireland, the Channel Islands, Normandy, and Brittany, limpet 
and such like shells are present in great numbers. It is stated 
that the natives of Ceylon do not consider an interment properly 
performed until a few sea-shells of a particular species have been 
cast into the grave. 

Quaintly-coloured pebbles, picked upon the banks of streams, 
were brought to their homes by the ancient cave-dwellers, as 
charms or curiosities, whilst sea-shells, perforated so as to form 
necklaces, must have been carried off from the shores of the 
Atlantic or of the Irish Channel. The ancient Irish had also a 
custom of burying white stones or lumps of quartz crystal with 
the dead ; these are by the peasantry of the North of Ireland 
sometimes called " Godstones." In a cemetery of stone-lined 
graves, near the ancient burial-ground of Saul, county Down, it 
was remarked that in each grave there were several white pebbles. 
One cist examined by the writer at Barnasraghy, county Sligo, 
was literally filled with pieces of angular-shaped white quartz, 
and similar fragments accompanied almost every interment in 
the Carrowmore series of rude stone monuments. A white stone 
was found recently in a primitive interment not far from Larne, 
county Antrim ; and inimy other instances, too numerous to men- 
tion, could be given. These white water-worn pebbles, or quartz 
stones, serve to identify the human remains as belonging to a 
very ancient period of sepulture. The custom, although common, 
has been little noticed by explorers. At the bottom of one of 
the cists in the celebrated pagan cemetery of Ballon Hill, county 
(arlow, a funeral urn was found inverted, and beneath it, placed 
in a triangular position, were three small, smooth pebbles, 
surrounded by a few pieces of burned stones : one was white, 
one black, and the third was of a greenish tinge. 

White quartz stones have also been found in the Hebrides 


in primitive interments, and in chambers in the interior of earns. 
They have been observed in various old British tombs, and also 
within the sacred circle on the Isle of Man— a circle which from 
time immemorial has been held in reverence. In most of the old 
tombs excavated in the neighbourhood of Dundee these pebbles 
were also found. An examination of a " Pict's House," at 
Kettleburn, in Caithness, Scotland, demonstrated that smooth 
stones of various shapes and sizes, such as might be picked up 
on the sea-shore, were found in several of the chambers among 
the ashes. The custom of burying white water- worn stones or 
pieces of fractured quartz or crystals may have been practised 
contemporaneously in Scotland and Ireland. The smooth, white, 
clean, and polished stones were probably to the ancient pagan 
mind emblematic of some- religious idea. 

Pieces of pure rock-crystal, found hi the Auvergne Mountains 
in France, were brought to the rock-shelters of Les Eyzies by the 
ancient cave-dwellers, probably as charms or on account of their 
sparkle. With the aborigines of Australia in the present day the 
possession of some such crystal is essential to the vocation of a 
medicine man, and quartz crystals are also regarded by the 
Apache Indians as " good medicine." With some of the people 
of India a white pebble of a certain size is reckoned a god of the 
highest class. 

On the north side of Lough Neagh there is a holy well, still 
believed to have great power and sanctity. Yellow crystals are 
found in great abundance in the vicinity ; these the country 
people believe grow on Midsummer's Eve, like mushrooms, in one 
night. The crystals must be gathered whilst certain rhymes are 
recited ; they then possess the power of averting evil, and bring 
luck and prosperity to the household. They are found scattered 
within an area of about two miles round the well, and in the 
crannies of the rocks. One of the most depraved of all races, 
the now extinct Tasmanians, believed that stones, especially 
certain kinds of quartz crystals, could be used as mediums, or as 
means of communication with spirits, with the dead, or with 
living persons at a distance. On the Continent it was customary, 
in early times, to deposit crystal balls in urns in sepulchres. 

On the island of Inniskea, as well as in the Mullet, it is cus- 
tomary to decorate the graves with large white pebbles. It is 
considered extremely unlucky to remove them ; for everything 
deposited with the dead is held sacred. The old Romans regarded 
one who would rob the dead as the lowest of the low, and as so 
degraded that he would even " snatch victuals from the flames 
of the funeral pile." 

Near Inverary, it is the custom among the fisher-folk, and 
has been so within the memory of the oldest, to place little white 


stones or pebbles on the graves of their friends. No reason is 
now given for the practice. 

In a description of Abyssinia, by J. Theodore Bent, it is 
stated, that a place called Bogas possesses a striking and highly 
interesting peculiarity in its numerous black and white tombs. 
" The approach to Keren is a perfect Appian Way of this curious 
form of sepulture. When a man dies they build a round wall of 
black stones over his grave; here they sacrifice goats, put food 
for the dead, and perform their wails over the departed. If the 
occupant of the tomb has died a natural death, they, in the 
course of the year, pile up heaps of white quartz in the form of a 
native hut ; if he has died of the vendetta, or any other unnatural 
death, they put only black stones over him. One nest of graves 
we saw consisted of seventy-two tombs, round the big white 
grave of the head of the family ; three only of these tombs were 
black, but in other groups the proportion was much larger." 

Amongst the Manxmen it is considered to be unlucky to have 
a white stone in a fishing boat, even in the ballast. No expla- 
nation is given ; but there can be no doubt as to the fact of the 
superstition. It may be illustrated from the ease of a gentleman 
who went out with some fishermen several days in succession. 
They chanced each time to be unsuccessful, and therefore the 
men bestowed on their Jonah the nickname of Clagh Vane, or 
" White Stone." 

In the present day, if a person in the Orkney or Shetland 
Islands is supposed to have been affected by the " Evil Eye," he 
is cured by having administered to him water, both externally 
and internally, into which have been dropped charms supposed 
to possess magical power. As a rule these are pebbles of different 
colours gathered from the sea-shore. The charm is considered 
most potent when one stone is white, another black, the remain- 
der being red, olive, or of greenish tint. This clue may, to some 
extent, be deemed explanatory of the deposition of pebbles, of 
various colours, in ancient pagan graves. White, black, green, 
reddish, and variegated coloured stones, of oval shapes, were 
found by the writer in interments in the Canowmore series of 
rude stone monuments near the town of Slit,'<>. 

In the present day the peasantry still believe that a cure for 
hip disease is to take three green stones, picked in silence between 
the period of midnight and sunrise from the bed of a running 
brook ; each stone is then rubbed several times up and down on 
the naked limb, from hip to heel, while an Irish rhyme is 
repeated, of which the following is a free translation : — 

'* Wear away, wear away. 
Tln-ve you shall not stay. 
Cruel pain, away, away ! " 


On this subject A. W. Buckland remarks, that " among the 
most ancient nations and the semi-civilized barbarians of our own 
day, green stones seem to have been more highly prized than 
those of any other colour." 

Black stones are also still used as charms, particularly for 
curing the mumps ; the form gone through is the same as in the 
foregoing ceremony with green stones. Sir E. Tennant describes 
certain stones, black in colour and polished, used in Ceylon for 
the cure of wounds ; and a similar property is ascribed in Ireland 
to the ancient stone spindle whorls called " Fairy mill-stones." 

The custom of placing these rounded or oval stones with the 
dead survived into Christian times. When the grave of St. Brecan, 
in Aran, was opened, there were found, beneath a large uninscribed 
flagstone, a number of rounded stones, averaging about nine 
inches in diameter, evidently picked up and brought to the saint's 
last resting place from the adjacent strand. One of these bears 
an inscription in Irish characters. 

Shakespeare seems to have been well acquainted with the 
ancient rite of the deposition of stones with the dead ; for in the 
play of Hamlet he makes the priest to say, when attending the 
body of Ophelia to the grave : — 

' ' Her death was doubtful ; 

She should in ground unsanctilied have lodged 
Till the last trumpet ; for charitable prayers, 
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her." 

This means that in case of supposed self-destruction, the 
•corpse being deemed unworthy of the rites of the Catholic Church, 
pagan observances should suffice. Some excellent examples of 
this ancient peculiarity of sepulture were observable in the town- 
land of Carrownagark, parish of Tawnagh, county Sligo. An 
esker, or hill, composed seemingly only of good gravel and sand, 
had been utilized as a gravel-pit. The upper surface of the soil, 
apparently not eighteen inches in depth, was thickly studded 
with human and animal bones ; the excavations made for sand 
and gravel giving a perfect section of this interesting keel. 
About one foot under the surface sod two human skulls were 
observed ; over one lay a hammer-stone, formed of sandstone, 
and over the other lay a flint flake and several pieces of charcoal. 
This custom of depositing certain kinds of stones with the dead 
lasted until well on in the present century ; for Carleton. who 
drew from real life his character-sketches for Traits and Stories 
of the Irish Peasantry, recounts, in one of the tales, how, on 
placing the body in a coffin, two "pebbles from Lough Derg'' 
were deposited " on the breast of the corpse." The early mission- 


aries may have thrown an air of Christianity around this curious 
rite by quoting to their converts the passage in Eev. ii. 17 :— 
" To him that overcometh will I give ... a white stone, and in 
the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he 
that receiveth it "; however, the symbolism of a white stone, as 
representing happiness, or a happy day, is widely spread. 

A white stone was of old the mark of good fortune. By it 
the Greeks gave sentence of acquittal. The victor at the games 
received one, which entitled him to food at the public expense. 
The white stone of the Scripture admits the guest to the 
heavenly feast. 

The theory has often been advanced that because osseous 
human remains decay under certain circumstances with com- 
parative rapidity, that therefore the traces of man found in the 
rude stone monuments of Ireland can be of no great antiquity. 
Under certain conditions, however, the large bones of man and 
of other mammalia are comparatively indestructible. Animal 
matter is stated to be abundant in the bones of Egyptian mum- 
mies known to be upwards of 3000 years old. Buckland made 
soup from the bones of the extinct British cave hyena, and jelly 
has been extracted from those of the Ohio mammoth. An edible 
jelly was extracted from bones of the h'li'plmx /niinii/eiiius, and a 
strong paste made from those of I 'rxus speloeus ; bones of the 
mastodon, found in New York in 1845, still contained nearly 30 
per cent, of animal matter ; from these it would have been quite 
easy to have prepared an antediluvian broth, a " real soup of 
pre-Adamite gelatine," and this eccentric idea was actually 
carried to a practical conclusion by a meeting of German natur- 
alists at Tubingen, who partook of a soup of mammoth gelatine. 
Bones committed to the ground will be preserved, or perish, in 
accordance with natural laws ; it may, however, be fairly 
assumed that the exclusion of water is a special requisite for pre- 

Human skeletons are in Ireland sometimes found buried in a 
sitting posture ; it is alleged that this was the position assumed 
by primitive man for repose, and some writers go so far as to 
state that " he had muscles developed specially for this purpose." 
In a cist at Tullydruid, county Tyrone, a skeleton was discovered 
in a sitting attitude, an urn at the knees and the head turned 
towards the east. Another skeleton was in such good preserva- 
tion that it was with the greatest difficulty some zealous members 
of the Eoyal Irish Constabulary were dissuaded from sending for 
the coroner to hold an inquest on the remains of the deceased, 
who had "shuffled off this mortal coil" some thousand years 

In the county Meath a skeleton was discovered buried in an 


upright position in a tumulus. This singular mode of interment 
is noticed in Irish mss. One old warrior was buried within the 
ramparts of his fortress, armed for battle. King Laoghaire was 
interred in a similar manner at Tara. Eoghan Bell, king of 
<Jonnaught, slain in 537, was buried on the banks of the river 
Sligo, erect, weapon in hand, and his face to the foe. Till quite 
lately it was customary for the dead of one family in the county 
Sligo to be buried in an upright posture. 

In committing to the ground the remains of their dead, the 
customs of the aborigines appear to have varied. After the dis- 
continuance of a probably universal, or almost universal state of 
cannibalism, and when it had become merely ceremonial or 
sporadic, interments were at first carnal. Then cremation appears 
to have obtained, and again, later, carnal interments predomi- 
nated. Of course there is confusion, and a commingling as one 
custom lingers on and overlaps the other, but such, it is believed 
by the writer, was the succession of funeral customs. 

A good example of the transition from carnal interment to 
cremation is afforded in the examination of the earn of Clogh- 
manty, in the county Kilkenny. It had been originally of 
considerable height, with an average diameter of seventy feet, 
but the central and other cists had been denuded by the covering 
material having been removed for various purposes. The central 
chamber was large, and contained two almost perfect uncalcined 
skeletons. In the course of time new customs obtained ; the 
dead were burned, portion only of the bones of the skeleton 
collected and placed in fictile vessels, and the old burial place was 
still used by the people practising cremation, the calcined 
remains being deposited in small chambers in the already exist- 
ing earn. 

Amongst a number of old pagan sepulchres examined in the 
county Sligo was one in which the remains of numerous skeletons, 
some evidently burned, others exhibiting no trace of fire, were 
piled on the floor of a cist that occupied the centre of a earn. 
An idea may be formed of the magnitude of the cist when one of 
the stones which formed the side was sixteen feet in length and 
six feet in breadth. In this chamber six. different human inter- 
ments were found, occupying the eastern and western ends, the 
centre part being unoccupied. The bones were collected into 
heaps that rested upon the freestone flags which formed the 
bottom or floor of the tomb. The large bones, such as those of 
the arms, legs, and thighs, covered the half-calcined remains of 
the smaller ones, and the skull surmounted the little pyramid 
thus formed. Round the margin of each heap were a quantity 
of the bones of birds and some of the lower mammalia, together 
with a number of small shells. Each of these six interments 


was distinct, and surrounded by small freestone flags. No 
weapon or ornament was discovered. 

In a tumulus near " Gibbet Bath," on the Curraghof Kildare, 
there was found, in a small cist, a large cinerary urn, about two 
feet in diameter, composed of half-burned pottery, and in it were 
deposited portions of a human skeleton comprising fragments of 
the skull and some teeth. In the course of subsequent explora- 
tions another urn was discovered in a neighbouring mound, and, 
about three feet beneath the summit of another tumulus, a cist 
was found nearly eight feet long, in which lay four or five uncal- 
cined skeletons. In other interments portions only of the bodies 
seem to have been originally committed to the tomb ; thus it will 
be perceived that in this area, which appears to have been care- 
fully examined, almost every description of interment was 
practised by the old occupants of the land. 

In an ancient sepulchral chamber at Ballynahatty, county 
Down, situated in a field almost adjoining the great circular 
embankment known as the " Giant's Ring," three methods of 
interment, all contemporaneously practised, were observed — 
Cremation with urn burial ; cremation without urn burial ; and 
the entombment of unburnt portions of the dismembered body: — 

"Amongst the burnt bones contained both in the urns and the 
recesses were numerous fragments of skulls, clearly proving that 
the unburnt crania could not possibly have been portions of 
the individuals by whose burnt remains they were surrounded. 
From the position occupied by three undisturbed lower jaws, the 
heads had evidently been deposited upon their bases, with then- 
faces towards the west, no portion whatever of the trunk having 
been deposited with them " (see page 290). 

A good example of a mixed interment occurred in one of the 
cists of the Carrowmore series of rude stone monuments near the 
town of Sligo. An uncalcined interment had been made over 
incinerated remains. At the lowest level of the side-stones of 
the cist, a floor or flagging of calpy limestone slabs was found. 
It was on this, which overlay the undisturbed " till," that the 
body or bodies of the primary interment had been originally cre- 
mated, portions of the floor showing marks of fire, and semi- 
burnt wood was found intact, with the layer of calcined bones 
above. It was plainly evident, from the floors and burnt bones 
(■xtendin^ in " pockets " under the side-stones of the cist, that 
the latter had been constructed over the funeral pyre, that the 
calcined remains were the primary interment, and that they had 
not been placed within an already completed chamber, differing 
in this respect from the interments at a tumulus at Dysart, where 
the cists were first finished, and the fire lighted on the covering 
slabs. Although the soil and debris in the Carrowmore cist 


were carefully excavated and sifted, no flint implements, orna 
ments, or traces of fictilia were observable. ' The exploration 
seems to throw great light on the manner in which these primi- 
tive " cremationists " burnt— at any rate in some instances— 
their dead. The word cremation is apt to convey to the mmd an 
idea of swift and complete destruction of a body by fire. By 
some modern methods an ordinary-sized corpse can be reduced to 
a few pounds of ashes in a very few minutes, but the primitive 
method of placing the body on a pile of wood was necessarily 
often lengthy and imperfect in its results. Bones, thus roughly 
cremated, present curious crack-like marks or nicks, the effect — a 
mechanical one — of unequal contraction of the bone in cooling. 
They cannot be marks of scraping, for they are, almost without 
exception, transverse, whilst scrapes, if intended to strip the 
bone, would be longitudinal ; they also, in many instances, extend 
through the entire thickness of the bones, show on the interior of 
the medullary canal, and are also found on pieces of the flat 
bones of the skull. To give prominence to such an apparently 
trivial detail is necessary, for a superficial observer might, on 
observing the cracks in calcined bones, arrive at the conclusion 
that they were marks of cannibalistic origin. 

Amongst the animal osseous remains found by W. J. Knowles 
amidst the sites of primitive huts, believed to belong to the 
Stone Age, at ' Whitepark Bay, county Antrim, were human 
bones; but whether these thus scattered about, in conjunction with 
those of animals, indicated that the people of the littoral were, in 
general, cannibals is a question not yet positively decided. In the 
stations, rock-shelters, and cave-refuges of the Continent, amongst 
the split bones of the larger animals fractured to extract the 
marrow, a sufficient number of human bones have been found to 
prove that Palaeolithic, or rude-flint using man, was, if not 
universally, still sporadically a cannibal. In several instances 
these bones, including those of women and children, have been 
discovered in great quantities, charred by fire, evidently the traces 
of cannibalistic orgies. While traces of cannibalism are frequent 
in the late polished Stone period they necessarily become fainter 
in the early rude Stone Age, pari passu with the diminution of 
human osseous remains. 

In the cave of Ballynamintra fragments of human bones were 
mixed with rude stone implements and animal osseous remains. 
During the exploration of one of the Knockmore caves in Fer- 
managh, a quantity of apparently purposely fractured and broken 
bones were found, many having been subjected to the action of 
fire. When submitted to the inspection of Professors Haughton 
and Macalister several of these fragments were pronounced to be 
remains of human skeletons. The discovery favours the hvpo- 


thesis that, at one period of its history, the cave was occupied by 
a tribe of cannibals. 

An urn discovered in a barrow at Topping, near Larne, 
county Antrim, contained imperfectly burned human bones, 
apparently much broken and split by force before being charred. 

In presumably early, as well as in late, carnal interments, 
several instances occur in which stone or bronze weapons have 
been discovered embedded in human crania ; a bronze spear- 
head was, in the year 1814, found near Kilkenny, driven into 
a human skull, part of the weapon being broken off, apparently 
by the force of the blow. This, of course, only proves that the 
defunct met his death by violence ; but again, in many instances 
the long bones of the leg, and other parts of human skeletons, 
are found with clearly marked longitudinal fractures, which, 
when observed in osseous remains in the refuse-heaps of crannogs 
or lake-dwellings, have occasioned archaeologists to pronounce 
without hesitation the verdict that these animal bones had been 
fractured for the purpose of facilitating the extraction of the 

In general, the space in which human remains are found is 
too limited to have contained even one adult body in an unmuti- 
lated condition, whilst traces of several are often recognizable. 

In some instances, whilst the crania were present, the re- 
mainder of the skeletons was missing. On the subject of the 
position of the bones, when found in xitti in an obviously hitherto 
undisturbed sepulchral chamber, a surgeon who examined them 
stated that they were placed there subsequent to the removal of 
the flesh and other investing media. 

The only way to account for this is, that the body or bodies 
were dissevered and packed within the very limited space. Again, 
it is a fact that, in many cases, no traces of the jaw bones or of the 
teeth were to be seen, although teeth are known to be the most 
enduring portion of the human frame, but otherwise the crania 
were comparatively perfect. 

"The absence of the lower jaw," remarks W. C. Borlase, 
" has been frequently remarked in the case of Irish skulls from 
cists in tumuli. That the sacrifices of human beings (infants 
when a good harvest was required and famine to be averted, and 
prisoners of war, malefactors, and strangers when the war god 
or the national deity was to be specially honoured or appeased) 
took place throughout the whole of north-western Europe, in 
Ireland, in Britain, in Scandinavia, in Germany, and in Gaul 
we have ample testimony, not from classical sources alone, but 
from the traditions which medieval writers have rescued from 
the past." 

In a sepulchral mound opened in the neighbourhood of 



Portaferry, there was a central chamber, about six feet long, 
formed by eight very large upright stones, a large flagstone 
forming the floor, on which lay a heap, a foot in thickness, of 
black mould and human bones, consisting of fragments of ribs, 
vertebrae, ends of the long bones, pieces of the skull and joints 
of the fingers of a full-grown person, together with several bones 
of a very young child. None of these had been subjected to the 
action of fire, but there were several fragments of incinerated or 
calcined bone, also human. Either these latter were portion of 
the same bodies burned, or they belonged to an individual sacri- 
ficed to the manes of the person whose grave this was. The 
latter is the more probable, from the circumstances under which 
similar remains have been discovered in other localities. There 
were no urns, weapons, or ornaments. 

A dozen tumuli which lay in a small area on the Curragh of 
Kildare were opened, and in every instance large quantities of 
human bones were found, in most cases giving the idea of legs, 
arms, and skulls having been thrown in promiscuously. Examples 
of fragmentary human interments were discovered in the cham- 
bers of a, earn on the slopes of Topped Mountain, in the county 
Fermanagh, which had, until recently, been covered by a thick 
growth of peat. 

The opening of a tumulus at Dysert, county Meath, resulted 
in the discovery of two chambers, containing each an unburned 
human skeleton. On the covering stone of one of the chambers 
there were uncalcined, or slightly calcined, human remains, with 
others fully calcined superimposed. One of these deposits con- 
sisted of the skeleton of a youth scarcely more than twelve years 
old. The chamber was completely surrounded with a mixture of 
clay, ashes, and sandstone blocks, partly disintegrated by the 
action of intense heat. It would appear as if the chamber was 
first constructed, the bodies then deposited in it, the covering flag 
imposed, and the funeral pyre erected over it, the victims immo- 
lated, their corpses then placed upon it, the torches applied, and 
the fearful rites of pagan sepulture consummated. The victims 
having been consumed, the fragments of their bones were col- 
lected and deposited on the cover of the chamber ; the ashes of 
the pyre were then heaped upon the cists, the boulders over it, 
and lastly, the outer covering of clay over all. The supposed 
order of the rites observed at the deposition of the skeletons con- 
tained in the chambers, and of the immolation of the victims over 
the cists, is corroborated by the baked appearance of the top of 
the skulls of the tenants of the tomb. As the skulls are the only 
osseous remains enclosed in the chambers which show marks of 
having been subjected to heat, and as the upper portions of the 
crania must, from the sitting posture of the skeletons, have come 


into almost immediate contact with the covering flagstone over 
which the funeral pyre was burning, the conclusion as to the pro- 
cess pursued becomes in this case a certainty. 

From many well authenticated excavations of previously undis- 
turbed interments, in which no traces of cremation were apparent, 
it is evidently physically impossible that the chamber which 
contained some few bones of well differentiated human skele- 
tons, could possibly have received even one corpse entire. The 
bones must either have been the remains of victims immolated 
during the celebration of sepulchral rites, or relics of warriors 
slain in battle, buried, and subsequently disinterred for final 
repose in the sepulchres of their ancestors ; but this latter theory 
would not account for the frequent recurrence of longitudinally 
fractured bones with medullary canals, nor for the great deficiency 
in the osseous framework of the tenants of the tomb. 

Fig. 94. 

The remains ot a pte-historic Briton's dinner. Human skull and bones artificially 
fractured fur the purpose ot extracting the brains and the marrow. After a 
sketch in the Dnily fifal/. 

The prehistoric Briton, like his neighbour the prehistoric 
Irishman, had no objection to human Mesh ; on the contrary, 
there is conclusive evidence to show that human beings, with the 
animals, formed portion of his everyday food. In a lake-dwelling, 
of the rude Stone Age, discovered recently at Braintree, human 
skulls, split to extract the bruins, and human bones, split from 
end to end by artificial means for extraction of the marrow, were 
discovered imbedded in the former lake bed, intermixed_ with 
those of oxen and other animals, which had undergone similar 
treatment (fig. 94). 

Treating of a later period, Moore, in his History <if Irchnul, 
remarks that " in the ill repute of the ancient Irish for civilization, 
their neighbours, the Britons, equally shared; and the same 
charges of incest, community of wives, and other such abomin- 
ations, which we find alleged against the Irish, are brought also 


against the natives of Britain by Caesar and Dion Cassius. . . . 
In referring to the charges of these two historians against the 
Britons, Whitaker says, ' the accusation is too surely as just as it 
is scandalous.' In a sermon of St. Chrysostom, quoted by 
Camden, that Father exclaims : ' How often in Britain did men 
eat the flesh of their own kind.' " 

Whilst comparatively modern native writers state that ancient 
Erin was a highly civilized, cultured, and homogeneous nation, 
classic writers state — and in this they are corroborated by material 
evidence — that it was peopled by tribes of cannibals. When such 
a divergence of opinion arises, is it not the most straightforward 
course to appeal to the traces left by the primitive inhabitants to 
guide us to a right decision ? If a man, in those distant ages, 
ate his enemy, his neighbour, or his friend, he did so without 
having before him the fear that, at a remote period, some anti- 
quary would be investigating the disjecta membra of his feast ; 
whilst, if it be thought that a slur is east on the Irish by the 
suggestion of an early prevalent cannibalism, it should satisfy 
the national pride to know that the dwellers in Caledonia and 
Albion, and indeed it may be said almost all primitive tribes, 
were originally in a similar state of savagery. 

It may be regarded as an undisputable fact that cannibal rites 
were practised in portions of Ireland and of the British Islands 
down to comparatively historic times ; that savagery did not die 
out in every locality ; but that, judged by folklore and arcbaso- 
logical evidence, there remained, here and there, restricted areas 
of unmitigated barbarism, hideous ulcers but half concealed 
beneath the fair surface which the pseudo-historians of early 
times present to our gaze. 

The origin of Grecian civilization was quite as rude as that of 
the Irish or of the British ; for, if we are to credit early tradition, 
the first inhabitants of Greece dwelt only in caves, whilst, during 
the period of internecine feuds, the vanquished were devoured by 
the victors, 



Survival of older Faiths than Christianity— Distinct traces of Paganism still to 
he found — Religion commenced with the worship of Fetishes — Rose to a 
Polytheistic Hierarchy — For a lengthened period there existed an un- 
defined borderland between" Paganism and Christianity— Reactions against 
Christianity — Memory of the Gods of ancient Erin very indistinct — Lir, 
the Sea God — Nudd, or Xeit, the War God — Dianket, the Medicine God — 
Dagda, the Fire God — All deified mortals — The Goddesses of ancient Erin — 
Now- styled Hags — Meaning of the term — They frequent " Hag's Beds " 
and " Dermod and Grania's Beds" — These monuments associated with 
Aphrodisiac customs —Legends relating to them — The White-robed Pagan 
"Hag" — The Black -robed Christian "Hag" — Aynia — Bav, the War 
Goddess, equates with the Gaulish Ana, or Cybele, the Valkyria of the 
Xorse, the Bellona of the Latins — Her three sisters — Neman, Morrigan, 
and Macha — Wives of Nudd, the War God, i.e., the Three Furies — A'era, 
Eevil, Una — The Banshee (a generic term) — an aristocratic spirit — Cleena, 
a free and easy spirit — Localities named after " Hags " — They erect Rude 
Stone Monuments in a single night— Grian — Grana — Murna — The water 
sprite or demon — The water serpent or jnaat — Aquatic horses — Gigantic 
Eels — An "Irish Crocodile" — Disease considered the work of demons — 
Anecdotes regarding this — Deities of one period become the demons of 
another — All these malignant beings degenerated representatives of the 
Goddesses of the ancient Irish. 

The presence, in our midst, of survivals of an older faith than 
Christianity is not readily grasped. Is not the historian of 
uncient Erin as much concerned with the faiths professed by the 
elder inhabitants as with the history of the various races who 
have successively occupied the country ? Survivals of what we, 
in our pride, designate as " pagan superstitions " are in reality 
religious ; they are fossilized fragments of the faiths of primitive 
peoples. All through the two ages, the remote and the present 
— often treated by superficial observers as differing in almost 
all essentials — there is a well defined, underlying and indivisible 
unity pervading the entire period, which modern research is 
making every day more and more apparent, for we now rightly 
regard " the present as the child of the past and as the parent of 


the future." The root ideas in most primitive religions appear 
to be practically identical, yet the forms they assume vary 
greatly, according to the epoch in which they develop, and 
country, climate, and moral characteristics are important factors 
in moulding their growth. When popular superstitions are 
analysed a singular degree of uniformity is traceable in that 
realm of the ideal world where most diversity might be expected, 
and we find races, separated by the ocean, united in their de- 
lusions. It would appear as if primitive mythology had not 
spread from nation to nation, but that all have derived their 
belief from some very primitive root-idea, as supernatural beings, 
which owe their existence only to the imagination, betray, in 
every climate and in every age, so close an affinity to one 
another that it is scarcely possible to. avoid admitting that the 
workings of the human mind, in separate and distinct peoples, 
had a predominant share in giving them their characteristics. 
Civilized and savage peoples alike divide souls into distinct parts. 
Throughout Asia, Africa, and America there is a belief in the 
transmigration of souls into animals, plants; and other objects, 
and in the general conception of the world as a living animal, 
with all the tendencies ascribed to it by Plato. Many savage 
tribes believe that their souls ascend to the stars and abide there, 
and almost all savages believe firmly in the demoniac possession 
of madmen and of the sick which has led to what may be styled 
a "diabolic pathology." 

A theory frequently advanced is that the religious ideas of 
man began by the worship of special fetishes, whether elements 
or material objects, that these fetishes gradually coalesced into 
comprehensive types, then into polytheistic hierarchies, finally, 
in a few instances, a vague conception arose that there might be 
but one ruling power. Thus we should commence our examina- 
tion of the traces of the ancient beliefs of the Irish by studying 
fetishism, but it may be clearer to the reader to start the inquiry 
from the highest point attained in Ireland, namely, a very loosely 
bound polytheistic hierarchy, and essay to discover from what 
depths the aborigines had ascended in their search after the 
Infinite, for the intellectual worth of a people is demonstrated in 
its mythical products, in the quality and greatness of its beliefs, 
and in their development into more rational notions. 

Old pagan observances are being rapidly obliterated by social 
progress and the grim utilitarianism of modern times. The 
plains through which, as ancient tradition avers, Finn MacCool 
pursued the flying chase are now traversed by the locomotive, for 
the march of improvement is imperious, nay, at times ruthless, 
and everything has to go down before the destruction which it 
regards as necessary to progress ; but the conception of what is 


really necessary is now becoming more defined, and a greater re- 
gard is growing up as to the honour due to ancient land-marks, 
whether material or literary. 

Studying the changes now going on throughout the length 
and breadth of our land may be likened to viewing the effects 
produced by magic lantern slides, where the receding picture 
blends strangely with the features of the oncoming scene. 
The quaint old elements of society are fading even as we gaze on 
the screen, and are being obliterated by the new scene. Much 
that we now see will soon have disappeared ; that which the 
lapse of centuries failed to effect, education is now accomplishing 
so rapidly, that, ere long, the last faint traces of the olden times 
will have entirely vanished from the canvas. 

Many singular customs of the Irish peasantry are but faint 
reflected lights of the old past, for, although the Christian mis- 
sionaries did their utmost, according to their light, to stamp out 
paganism, there remained in the hearts of the people a deeply- 
rooted fondness for the form of worship in which they had been 
brought up. It was the religion of their forefathers, and despite 
the popular idea of the rapid conversion of the island to 
Christianity by St. Patrick, yet in almost every district there 
must have remained some few who clung, with tenacity, to the 
old tenets, and handed them down from generation to generation 
in ti more or less mutilated form. To the present day very dis- 
tinct traces of paganism may be found in the acts of that class of 
charlatans styled charm-mongers, herb- or fairy-doctors. Even 
where all traces of Druidism and fairyism are supposed to have 
vanished, many of the practices attributed to wise women or 
witches are but reproductions of those formerly ascribed to 
Druids. In these superstitions and observances of the peasantry 
are enshrined strange fragmentary relics of earlier creeds, some- 
times even traces of cannibalistic practices, but their remote 
antiquity and now but half decipherable implications are, in 
general, passed unnoticed. The most exhaustive survey that 
could well be accomplished must of necessity fail to give a perfect 
delineation of the character of a people, unless it is based upon 
the confessions they themselves have placed on record. Without 
these history is a mere catalogue of dates and facts, useless alike 
as a panorama of the past, or as an object-lesson for future 

Close study of fragmentary remains of primeval customs pos- 
sesses considerable interest as well as authoritative value. _ Better 
even than language these remains become beacons to point out 
the true origin of nations. They illustrate analogies of customs 
and usages in the West and in the East, which, to superficial 
observation, seem to possess little or no importance, yet they, to 


the reflective inquirer, offer subjects of interesting speculation 
and create permanent land-marks on the road to real knowledge. 
As observed by Froude : — " Our indifference costs us more than 
we are aware of. It is supremely desirable that we should be 
acquainted with the age in which Christianity became the creed 
of civilized mankind, and we learn but half the truth from the 
Christian Fathers. Whether we regard Christianity as a miracle 
from without, or as developed from within, out of the conscience 
and intellect of man, we perceive at any rate that it grew by 
natural causes, that it commended itself by arguments and 
example, that it was received or rejected according to the moral 
and mental condition of those to whom it was addressed. We 
shall understand the history of its triumph only when we see the 
heathen world as the heathen world saw itself." 

For a lengthened period there was in Ireland an undefined 
border line between Christian and pagan ; there were wavering 
chiefs who would fain strike a bargain with heaven ; they would 
accept Christianity if God would but grant them victory. So 
late as the year a.d. 561, at the battle of Cooldrumman, near 
Drumcliff, county Sligo, St. Columbkille, when praying aloud 
for the success of his supporters, addressed Christ as " My 
Druid," probably considering that, by thus imploring help from 
above, he would be better understood by his followers. The line 
between Christianity and paganism was gradually obliterated by 
the advancing tide of the new faith, which finally overspread 
the land ; the superstitions and legends of paganism remained, 
and in most districts, especially in remote and mountainous 
localities, they yet linger, but with ever diminishing strength ; 
for rugged highlands shelter old races and foster and sustain old 
practices. There were also several reactions against Christianity ; 
for example, in some fragments of Irish Annals, translated by 
O'Donovan, it is stated that many of the Irish, in the ninth 
century, forsook the Christian faith, and joined the pagan 
invaders in their plundering expeditions. 

Eeligion sat lightly on the shoulders alike of pagans and of 
Christians. According to the Saga of Egil, Athelstan, King of 
England, when proffered the assistance of a band of sea rovers, 
accepted their aid on condition that the chiefs were " prime - 
signed," as was then very usual, both among traders and those 
who went into the service of Christians ; for those who were 
" prime-signed, had full intercourse with both Christians and 
heathens, but at the same time they believed what they liked 
best." A very convenient creed, resembling that professed by 
Redwald, King of the East Angles, who built a church, at one 
end of which he erected an altar for the sacrifice of the Mass, 
and at the other end an altar for sacrifice to his old Saxon gods. 


The good simple man desired to propitiate both sides, and lie 
has accordingly been excluded from the calendar. The Nor- 
wegian chief Helgi is another excellent type of a semi-Chris- 
tianised warrior striving to serve two masters. As an infant he 
had been baptized ; he therefore worshipped Christ when on 
shore ; but on occasions of difficulty, or of danger, or when at 
sea, he offered up his prayers to Thor. 

The gods of ancient Erin have vanished, leaving but faint 
traces of their former worship. The god, or demigod, Manannan 
Mac Lir, appears to have been a tutelary deity of the sea, an 
Irish Neptune, ruler of the waters, lakes, as well as giant Ocean. 
He was of Dedanann descent ; we are told that he was a famous 
merchant, who resided on and gave his name to the Isle of 
Man. He was a weather-prophet, and ruler of the winds, and 
by examination of the beavens, he predicted the length of time 
fair or foul weather would continue. He has almost disappeared 
from popular tradition, and is now best known from having left 
nine daughters, who bequeathed their names to nine lakes. Of 
these only five are remembered by the peasantry — they are (rill, 
Erne, Labe, Arrow, and Key. Gill, from whom, in current 
tradition, Lough Gill, near Sligo, takes its name, is said to be 
often seen in the vicinity of the lake, over the waters of which 
she skims in her fleet rolling chariot. This banshee, or rather 
fairy queen, possesses an acknowledged pre-eminence over her 
other sisters : — 

" For o'er those waves, from time unknown, 

Tli' enchantress fair, 

AVhose name they bear, 
Hath reigned on her crystal throne ; 

There her fleet chariot wheels of old 

Over the glassy waters roll'd, 
And legends say the royal mnid, 
In robe of purest white array M 

And crown'd with diadem of gold, 
Still reins abreast three coal-black steed.*, 
Still on her car of triumph speeds 
in royal pride and radiant sheen, 
Around her native valleys green, 

And skims o'er the blue tide's surface cold." 

It was probably owing to his familiarity with a tradition of this 
kind that Spenser drew materials for his " Faerie Queene." 
These goddesses enjoyed a joke as much as present day ladies 
of Erin. Of the sisters, one possessed a beautiful lake in the 
territory over which she held sway, whilst her elder sister had 
none. One day the elder said to the younger, " Give me the 
loan of your silver lake, and I promise to return it on Monday " 
(it is well to explain that in Irish, the terms expressing Monday 


and the Day of Judgment are identical). The younger good- 
naturedly poured her lake into a cow's hide and despatched it by 
special messenger ; but when the porter was sent to carry it 
back, the elder sister made answer : " assuredly I said Monday, 
but I meant the Day of Judgment, and I intend keeping the lake 
until then." So Lough Foyle, or the " borrowed lake," remains 
in her country to this day, while the great bare and barren 
hollow from whence it was taken may be seen in Connaughfc, 
awaiting the return of the waters, which will take place on the 
Day of Judgment. 

Amongst the gods there was also Neit, Ned or Nudd, the god 
of war ; and Diancecht, or Dianket, the god of medicine, of whose 
healing powers extraordinary stories are told. Dr. P. W. Joyce 
states that the latter had a son, and a daughter named Armedda, 
more skilful than himself. The old legend relates that the son 
"took off the silver arm which his father Dianket had put on 
Nuada, and having procured the bones of the real arm he clothed 
them with flesh and skin, and fixed the arm in its place as well 
as ever." Dianket was so enraged at being excelled by his son 
that he killed him. After some time, three hundred and sixty- 
five healing herbs sprang up on his grave — each herb to cure 
disease, in that part of the human body from which it grew, and 
all of them were gathered by his sister, and placed carefully in 
their proper order. " But before she had time to study their 
several virtues fully, her father Dianket mixed them all up in 
utter confusion. Were it not for this churlish proceeding, 
Armedda would have found out, and we would now know the 
exact herb to cure each particular disease of the human frame." 

Irish gods were apparently but deified mortals, celebrities of 
their day, taken indiscriminately from the three so-called colonies 
of the Formorians, the Dedanann, and the Milesians. 

It may be interesting to point out that Keating, in his History 
of Ireland, explains the change in name of three of the chiefs of 
the Dedanann by stating that they were called, instead of their 
proper names, Maccuill, Maeeacht, and MaeGreine, because the 
idols they severally worshipped were distinguished by these 
names. Maccuill adored, for his deity, a log of wood* (euill), 
Maeeacht worshipped a ploughshare {nneht) and MaeGreine 
chose for his god (Irian, the sun. However all the Irish gods 
were not inanimate objects of nature, and although Dr. Todd, in 
his life of St. Patrick, is of opinion that the Irish had no know- 
ledge of the gods or the feminine deities of the classic world 
under any Celtic designations, yet there can be little doubt but 
that many of them, under ancient Gaulish names, may be 
recognised in old Irish legends. Many of the old Celtic gods of 
Gaul, of Britain, and of Ireland appear to have been the nature- 


gods of the primitive Aryan family, though in Ireland several 
were designated by names differing from their British and 
Gaulish prototypes. Edward Clodd, f.r.a.s., remarks that among 
those worshipped by the Irish was " Dagda, a fire-god, whose 
caldron was the vault of the sky, and whose hammer, like that 
of Tiranis and Thor, is the thunderbolt. . . . Among the 
gods common to the British and Irish tribes were Don and Nudd 
and Lir and their children. . . . Nudd, or Noden, was an 
ocean god ... in Ireland he is King Nuada, whose wife 
was the goddess of the river Boyne. . . . Lir was also a 
sea god, who appears in old Welsh histories as Lud, to whom 
some think that a temple, on the hill where St. Paul's Cathedral 
stands, was once erected ; and in another form of the legend, as 
King Lear." 

It has never been sufficiently borne in mind that the deities of 
all peoples, with, perhaps, the exception of the Jews, are generally 
recognised as "earth-born." The members of the Olympian 
hierarchy were but human beings very slightly idealised, and en- 
dured all the ills of " suffering sad humanity." Their birth-places, 
pedigrees, histories, and deaths are given by those who adored 
them as deities. The grave of Zeus was shown in Crete, Apollo 
was buried at Delphi, and the graves of Hermes and Aphrodite 
were all anciently pointed out. In their poetical and dramatical 
machinery the ancients made their gods the prime agents of as 
much evil as good. " They have described them as mixing them- 
selves up with human infirmities, and lending themselves to 
human passions, in so gross a manner that it is almost impos- 
sible to admire virtue, and to esteem such gods, or to look up 
to heaven with affection, without looking down upon its rulers 
with abhorrence. . . . The writers of the Greek tragedy wen; 
continually placing their audiences in positions where, if they 
exercised their pity it could only be at the expense of their piety, 
and where disgust was a feeling far more liable to be excited than 
devotion. In short, there seems to be this difference between the 
superstition of the Pagans and the religion of the Christians- 
the former lowered a god to a man, the latter exalts a man to a 
god ! " Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, and Orcus contract what may be 
euphemistically styled morganatic marriages with mortal woman. 
On the other hand, favoured mortals, such as Anchises and En- 
dymion, find favour in the eyes of goddess, or nymph of stream, 
sea, hill, or dale. According to nil accounts these good old 
times hiive come to an end, the time when Ossian follows his 
golden-haired charmer through the sunlit waves till they reach 
the land of vouthful delight at the bottom of the Atlantic ; when 
Michael Scott dwells with the fairy queen in her kingdom; when 
the handsome voung fisherman is enticed by the mermaid t<> 


descend to meads and bowers beneath the green waves ; and when 
women, neglecting Christian rites, are carried off by the fairies 
into their underground palaces. 

If we seek the origin of primitive Greek and Roman worship, 
all the hierarchy who, served by Hebe and Ganymede, feasted on 
Olympus, vanish ; for the first worship of Greek and Eoman alike 
was the worship of the dead. In olden times not only every 
celebrated man, but every man who was not an outcast, became, 
when dead, a divinity to his descendants, who worshipped in him, 
and in all ancestors, the principle of life which they inherited. 
Just before his death Vespasian — evidently a sceptic as to his 
promotion to divinity, for the apotheosis of Eoman Emperors was 
the last surviving application of a belief formerly universal — 
exclaimed mockingly, " Alas ! I think I feel my divinity corning 
upon me." Eoman altars, discovered in various parts of Britain, 
are frequently dedicated to the numen or divinity of the Emperor. 

Although memory of the gods of Erin has almost vanished, 
yet memory of the goddesses has been retained. In the folk-lore 
of the peasantry there are still existent prominent supernatural 
mythical beings, some passively benign, others actively malig- 
nant, who hold sway in popular tradition, and who are reputed to 
reside in the numerous rude stone monuments throughout Ireland 
named after them. The designation of these survivals is Cailleaeh, 
i.e. witch, or hag ; hence rude stone structures in which they are 
reputed to dwell are called " hags' beds." The Irish-speaking 
peasant still designates these grand monuments, scattered broad- 
cast over the land, leaba (pronounced labby), the resting-place 
or bed, understood as grave. The most imposing structures 
are usually called "Labby Dermody agus Grania," the bed of 
Dermod and Grania, this designation being derived from the 
well-known legend of Dermod O'Dyne's elopement with Grania, 
but this portion of the story evidently took its rise from the word 
hibhij being understood in its literal sense of " a bed." 

Even in the present day "Dermod and Grama's beds" are 
associated with runaway couples and with aphrodisiac customs. 
Of this Dutton's experience when in search of the BalJyeasheen 
" bed" in Clare, is an excellent example. He relates that on 
inquiry from some country girls where this celebrated "bed" was 
situated, he was heartily laughed at for asking one of them to 
show him the way to it. " After a long consultation with one 
somewhat older than herself — sometimes with very serious 
countenances, often with smiling ones * and the elder using a 
good deal of persuasion — she agreed to go with me, if she 
was certain I was a stranger, and she knew my name. As 
the conversation between them was in Irish, which I did not 
understand, and the evening was growing late, I became impa- 


tient, and very ungallantly rode away. When I had ridden a 
mile further I made the same inquiry from a herd's wife, and 
at the same time told her how I had been laughed at by the 
girls. She said, ' No wonder for them, for it was the custom 
that if she went with a stranger to Darby and Grane's bed she 
was certainly to grant him everything he asked.' " Comment- 
ing on this, W. C. Borlace remarks that from anecdotes he had 
himself heard, as well as from covert jokes which he noticed, 
passing in Irish, between persons who had accompanied him to 
" Dermod and Grania's beds," he is sure that this reputation 
is still attached to these monuments. No doubt but that from 
Pagan times comes the widespread notion that these " Beds " 
were efficacious in cases of barrenness. Dutton remarks that if a 
woman " proves barren, a visit with her husband to Darby and 
Grane's bed certainly cures her." Mr. Borlace states that — " A 
similar superstition prevails in the case of some Welsh dolmens 
(i.e. cromleacs) in which country they also are associated with 
illicit and clandestine meetings. In Brittany, in the Pyrenees, 
and in Spain, megalithic monuments, menhirs especially, are 
resorted to by lovers in order to plight their troth." 

There are mountain tribes in Northern India who still burn 
their dead and erect rude stone monuments over their ashes, and 
travellers have remarked the striking similarity that exists between 
the Indian and the Irish structures. The manner in which, in 
India, these stones are hauled to their destination might repre- 
sent a scene from Neolithic Ireland. Partly according to the 
estimation in which the deceased is held, partly according to the 
amount of entertainment which the members of the family are 
prepared to dispense, a greater or less number of men proceed to 
the spot where the stones are to be raised. If of medium size 
they are placed on trucks, with enormous massive wheels ; if of 
greater dimensions, sheer brute force, and pushing and pulling 
with ropes, suffice to carry them over all obstacles to their final 

On the banks of the Jordan there are ancient tombs of great 
rough stones, resembling the Irish ; hundreds of rude stone monu- 
ments, in all important respects identical with those in Ireland, 
abound in Algeria. The Mediterranean parted the stream of this 
sepulchral building race into two great currents ; one flowed 
along the northern coast of Africa, the other across the face 
of the European Continent. The rude stone monuments of 
France are well known, as Brittany presents the finest collection 
of this class to be seen in Europe ; and from thence, apparently, 
was sent off a branch-stream, which overran (Ireat Britain and 
Ireland, commingling with another which descended from 
northern latitudes. That such an immigration took place is 


almost self-apparent ; the approximate date is the only matter 
that appears open to discussion, the low-age school of speculation 
brings down the use of rude stone structures to a very late 
period : on the other hand the high-age school dates their erection 
by many thousand years earlier. Many irrelevant observations 
regarding Irish monuments have been made even by otherwise 
able writers. Fergusson remarks that — " It is extremely difficult 
to write anything regarding the few solitary dolmens of Ireland. 
Not that their history could not be, perhaps, easily ascertained ; 
but simply because everybody has hitherto been content to 
consider them as pre-historic, and no one has consequently 
given himself the trouble to investigate the matter." Now 
Ireland, instead of possessing but a " few solitary dolmens," 
is, on the contrary, for its size, one of the richest, if not the 
very richest, country in Europe in that class of monuments, and 
further, as remarked by Mr. Wakeman, "Irish archaeologists 
are not sufficiently demented as to go searching for the history 
of remains which, upon being dug into, almost invariably present 
calcined bones, sepulchral urns more or less perfect, and. objects, 
instruments, and personal ornaments composed of stone, flint, 
bone or shell," the remains, in fact, of the "civilization" of 

Legends have gathered around these hoary monuments, even 
as mosses and lichens cluster on their weather-beaten sides. 
Unlike rolling stones which gather no moss, these large, stationary 
masses have attracted around them a thick covering of moss, in 
the shape of oral traditions and legends, ever accumulating new 
material from current events, all jumbled together, just in the same 
way that, in a mediaeval representation of the Virgin and Child, 
fiie painter depicts the abbot or other ecclesiastic who gave him 
the order for the picture, in the act of adoration — placing past 
and present on the same plane. These traditional stories were 
recited on the long winter evenings around the turf fire, whilst 
men, women, and children listened with eager, rapt attention. 
The old-world tales of Ireland, however, together with its 
language, are alike dying out, the days of traditional lore are 
now past ; for the modern schoolmaster is abroad and, except in 
remote parts of the country, the peasantry no longer venerate 
monuments from which, in their eyes, legend and glamour have 
alike fled. 

The conclusion which Mr. Borlace, the latest writer on this 
subject, arrived at, with regard to the subject-matter of legends, 
and fragments of legends still existing, regarding Irish rude 
stone monuments, is " that for the most part it is referable 
neither to pristine ages of Aryan mythology, nor to traditions of 
events which occurred in Ireland itself; but that it is largely 


made up of genuine traditions of events which occurred on the 
Continent, from the third to the sixth century, a.»., with some 
more distant lights, perhaps reaching back to the first and second 

In styling rude stone monuments giants' graves, the peasantry 
made the very pardonable mistake of confusing great men with 
big men ; for there is a common and very prevalent idea that 
bigness constitutes greatness, and in vulgar minds wonder is 
proportioned in regard to the size of the object under notice ; but in 
the best criterion, nature's workshop, the infinitely small is usually 
more remarkable for its superior workmanship than the infinitely 
great. The size of some of the Irish rude stone monuments 
first gave rise to the idea that giants were buried in them. It 
is not, however, always the greatest men, either mentally or 
physically, that have the largest monuments erected over them ; 
and if some of these hitherto undisturbed tombs were scientifically 
examined it would probably be demonstrated that their occupants 
belonged to a primitive and undersized race. The rude stone 
monuments alone are gigantic, not the bones they contain. 
Dimes of the gigantic Irish deer and of the mammoth were long 
mistaken for human remains, and seemed to confirm the erroneous 
idea as to their origin. Professor N. Joly remarks that, on the 
Continent, " a still greater and more deplorable error was the 
attributing these bones to saints, and, as such, they were paraded 
with great pomp through the towns and in the country, as late as 
17H9, in the hope of thereby obtaining rain from heaven in years 
of prolonged drought." 

Popular tradition asserts that a " giant's grave " in the town- 
land of Lickerstown, county Kilkenny, about 25 feet long and 12 
broad, had been erected over " Ceadach the Great." The legend, 
preserved in the Ideality, which accounts for the death and burial 
ofthegiaut, relates that he had quarrelled with another Irish 
Goliath, named (roll, and they chose this spot to decide their 
difference in single combat. Two of Goll's friends accompanied 
him to the ground, but Ceadach came alone, mounted on an 
enchanted horse, by means of which he traversed space instan- 
taneously. A tree is shown marking the spot where the wonderful 
animal stood whilst the champions fought on foot. After a pro- 
longed and desperate encounter Ceadach was victorious ; but 
(loll, in a dying effort, pierced him through the heart with his 
spear, upon which the magical horse Hew away through the air 
to his master's palace, conveying the news of his fall. On one 
of the rocks forming the monument indentations were pointed 
out, the imprints made by Ceadach as he fell. Goll's body was 
removed by his two friends, but Ceadach's was interred upon the 
spot. The legend also affirms that the giant Goll was father of 


the lovely Grania, before mentioned, who by her fleetness of foot 
won the hand of Finn MaeCool at the celebrated race of Slieve- 
naman, but who ran off with Dermod. 

Another legend attached to the strand of Beltra, near Bally- ' 
sodare, county Sligo, relates that the combat took place on these 
sands ; that a young woman named Hele was a spectator, and 
seeing Goll, her loved one, fall, she dropped dead through excess 
of grief, and over her a earn was erected, and another over her 
luckless lover. 

Gathering and piling stones in an immense heap was an easy 
way of keeping a noticeable fact fresh in the mind of primitive 
man. In a similar way we nowadays build and endow an 
hospital or home as a tribute to the philanthropy of some citizen, 
or erect a statue, in a conspicuous place, to commemorate the 
fame of some distinguished warrior. The oldest reference to a 
earn that the writer can find is in 1 Samuel xx., where, according 
to the Septuagint version, the Greek (v. 19) reads " beside yonder 
Ergab," and at verse 41, " David arose from the Ergab," Ergab, 
being the transcription, in Greek, of a rare Hebrew word signify- 
ing a sepulchral mound or rude monument of stones. 

The Arabs, although they but destroyed the works of a foreign 
and conquered race, when they heated the public baths of 
Alexandria with the books of its famous library (though it is 
now asserted that they never did so, as it had been burned long 
previously), are execrated, even yet, in the literary world ; how 
much more, therefore, do the Irish deserve a justly earned censure 
for their destruction of the primitive rude stone or earthen 
monuments of their ancestors for the purpose of macadamizing 
public roads, feeding the greedy maws of limekilns, or manuring 
fields. Mr. E. Lloyd Praeger draws attention to the wanton 
destruction of rude stone monuments which "happened under the 
very noses of the Boyal Society of Antiquarians, and the Royal 
Irish Academy, and the energetic Field Club of Belfast." These 
monuments are destroyed it is true, these records of the past 
have vanished, but nevertheless worse might have happened. 
Had they been handed over to the tender mercies of the Board 
of Works, they might have been "restored" by that archceo- 
logically intelligent and energetic body, and more " Board of 
Works lies " might have been handed down to puzzle posterity. 

The destruction of these ancient structures has been the 
subject of comment, but their preservation has been but little 
noted. Throughout past ages, when other and later monuments 
have been destroyed, they remained guarded by unknown but 
dreaded beings. Legends where they have been removed and 
miraculously restored ; beliefs which point to them as the resi- 
dence of supernatural beings : facts which show the resentment 


formerly felt by the country people at their disturbance, are well 
known. It is noteworthy that these former objects of the 
peasants' veneration were erected by an early wave of population. 
It may be suggested that their preservation by means of venera- 
tion for traditional beliefs points to the continued influence, up to 
a very late date, of their builders. 

If we are to judge from their sepulchral monuments, these 
old world folk viewed their dwellings as mere temporary shelters, 
and regarded their tombs as their true and permanent abode. 
Even in the already highly developed and refined civilization of 
the earliest Egyptian dynasties, the tombs of the departed were 
apparently mere copies of their former dwellings. In these they 
were supposed to continue to live surrounded with replicas of 
their numerous belongings. The existence of underground beings 
was evidently regarded as a kind of phantasm agorical continuance 
of their past lives. 

Some races, in ancient times, buried their dead in the actual 
houses occupied by them when alive ; some savage tribes do so 
still. Many of the chambers in the tumuli of Northern Europe 
are regarded, by antiquaries, as copies, in stone, of the wooden 
dwellings then in use. As the power of the chiefs increased 
their dwellings became larger and grander, the chambers in the 
tumuli developing in proportion. Thus, it may be suggested, 
might not the chambers in the mounds of the New G range 
series of monuments, be reproductions of the architectural 
features of the houses inhabited by their occupants when in the 
land of the living ? 

The way in which " hags " are even yet connected in legend 
and story with rude stone monuments is such, that it may be 
held as an extenuation of the pun that the myths regarding these 
venerable dames must be regarded us forming a part of " Hagio- 
logy." The race of Irish " hags " can at any rate boast of con- 
siderable antiquity; for, as a rule, most rude stone monuments, or 
earns, had their own peculiar patroness. Mr. liorlaee remarks 
that "this word (L'aillcacli, i.e. 'Hag') is derived from Caille, 
a veil, and properly signifies simply miilicr rrlata pallio, a woman 
wearing a cloak over her head, hence an old woman." Used 
in a Christian sense, Vitilliwh came to signify a woman who 
had taken the veil, who had become a nun. The sense of 
hag or witch was, however, preserved, although it had received 
it fn respect of its connexion with a pre-existing pagan custom, 
according to which " inspired " women banded themselves 
together and veiled themselves, just as the druid or sorcerer had 
his own peculiar tonsure, called opprobriously " the tonsure of 
N|mon Magus." There were female as well as male druids, and 
there are recorded instances of women placing themselves under 


training in sorcery. "Hags" or -witches of undoubted pagan 
pedigree are generally clothed in white (fig. 95) ; Christian 
witches wear the more unobtrusive black (fig. 96). In the same 
way the spirit of the Banshee assumes the form of a woman, 
sometimes young, but more generally very old. If young she is 
attired in loose white drapery ; if old her long silvery locks float 
in the wind and her body is enveloped in black drapery. 

Prominent in Irish Folk-lore are three celebrated "hags," 
Aine or Aynia, Bav, the Goddess of War, and Bheartlia (Vera), 
variously written in English Vera, Verah, Berah, Berri, Dirra, 
and Dhirra. Aynia holds sway in popular tradition, principally, 
but not exclusively, in tha North of Ireland ; the legends regard- 
ing Bav and Vera are — as far as present investigation of legends 
has progressed — more widely prevalent. 

Fig. 95. 
The young and white-robed Pagan spirit. From Mr. arid Mrs. Halt's /re/ami. 

Most popular superstitions and legends are found to be of a 
nature easily explainable. It is a strange yet well demonstrated 
fact that the deities of one period often become the demons of 
another ; and, in the lapse of years, those that were formerly 
revered and worshipped become, under a new cult, ill-omened 
and vindictive. Of this no better example can be advanced than 
the transformation of the ancient goddesses, Aynia and Vera, 
into witches of ordinary type ; yet, considering the attenuated 
stream of Pagan religious tradition, it is remarkable that the 
stories of these mythical beings are so widely diffused, and have 
descended to the present day from remote antiquity. Aynia is 
represented as passively benign and, only when provoked, 
demonstrates her power in an unkind manner. At Knocknanny, 



in the county Tyrone, a remarkable rude stone monument crown- 
ing the summit of a hill is, by the peasantry styled " Aynia's 
Gove." The hill is considered to be a fairy haunt ; and woe 
betide the unlucky wight who should dare to remove the smallest 
of the stones which now remain of the " Cove," in which Aynia, 
who is reputed to have become Queen of the Fairies, is said to 
have delighted. Aynia occurs as a personal name on the Bally- 
morereigh Ogham stone, in the county Kerry. According to 
some writers Aynia, in Irish mythology, held the place of Cybele, 
the Gaulish form of the name being Ana and Ananus. 

Fig. 'JO. 
The old and black-mbcd Christian spirit. 

Edward Clodd states that amongst the old paj?an Irish, " the 
moon was worshipped under the name of Amu, or Anu, as Queen 
of Heaven, and mother of the gods, bloody sacrifices being 
offered to her, ' She was upon the hills at midsummer, and at the 
winter feasts, when the spirits of the dead were propitiated. 

No mere name similarity is of much intrinsic value ; still it 
may be mentioned, as a curious coincidence, that at the head of 
the Babylonian mythology there also stands a deity named Ami. 



He reigned over the upper and lower regions of the universe ; 
when these were divided, the upper portion, or the heavens, were 
ruled by him, whilst the lower regions of the earth were governed 
by his wife Anatu. 

Aynia appears in different guises in some of the traditional 
tales current in Ireland. Popular legend certainly supports the 
idea that she was at one time regarded as the moon goddess, 
as an immense stone to be seen near Dunany is called "the 
chair of Aynia," or "the chair of the lunatics." The country 
people believed that lunatics, if not under restraint, .actuated by 
some, to them, irresistible impulse, made their way to this chair, 
seated themselves thrice upon it, and were thenceforth incurable. 
It was also extremely dangerous for sane persons to sit upon 
the stone, for they were then subject to the power of Aynia, 
and liable to become lunatics. Even rabid dogs travelled from 
all parts of the kingdom to this stone, and remained about it 
until impelled by some invisible influence, they finally re- 
treated to the ocean, to the submarine dominion of Aynia. Her 
influence was particularly powerful on the Friday, Saturday, 
and Sunday immediately following Lammas Day. Few persons 
in the neighbourhood of Dunany would, in olden times, venture 
to bathe during these three days dedicated to Aynia ; nor would 
fishermen, save with great reluctance, follow their avocation, as 
they remarked, that if they did so, one or more persons would 
lose their lives by drowning, victims of the relentless goddess. 
These facts, together with other evidence, warrant the belief 
that Aynia was an ancient Irish goddess of great power, attributes, 
and influence. 

Under some circumstances there appears to have been a 
special reverential feeling displayed towards people bereft of 
reason, both in ancient and mediaeval times ; they were regarded 
somewhat in the manner in which an American Indian of the 
present day looks upon a lunatic. Lunacy was formerly supposed 
to be in some way connected with the phases of the moon, but 
such is not the case. A mania may, however, be recurrent, and 
the recurrent period may possibly coincide with the phases of 
the moon — hence the quaint idea. In old mss. frequent mention 
is made of the sudden loss of reason by warriors in the heat of 
battle ; the cases of the son of the King of Ulster, at the battle 
of Ventry ; and the Chief Druid of Nuada, King of the Dedannan, 
at the second battle of Moytirra, are good examples. The Irish 
ms., from which the following legend is paraphrased, was compiled 
in the year 1416 from an older version. The Druid, from whom, 
according to this legend, the name of the lake, i.e. Lough Key, 
near Boyle, in the county Roscomnion, has been derived — and 
not from the daughter of Manannan Mac Lir, as before stated — 


is represented as having been present, and having suddenly 
rushed from the field " in madness and red lunacy." 

" Yr) green unruffled waves, ye pure glad waters, 

Whence rose ye ? "Wherefore flow'd ye o'er the plain 
When he who fled Moytirra's field of slaughters, 
Ignoble safety sought, but sought in vain. 

" When swords flashed, when arrows flew around him, 
Half fainting, panic struck, he fled the foe ; 
A brave man would have fought till victory crown'd him, 
Or fallen where many a gallant heart lay low. 

" But King Nuada's Druid fled from glory, 
Pursued and wounded on that fearful day ; 
Behind him raged the battle fierce and goiy, 
Before, the velvet lawn of verdure lay. 

" There, and 'mid that plain, exhausted almost dying, 
On the rude earn he laid his weary breast, 
There slumber'd, all unwept, unbonour'd, lying, 
To wake no more from that inglorious rest. 

" For silent, slow as dawns the light of heaven, 

Through the green swunl thr magic waters rose, 
Unseen, unheard, as falls the dew of even, 
Around and o'er the recreant's head they close. 

" No daring deeds oh pillar rudely graven, 
To future ages shall record his fame ; 
But men will ever scorn the dastard craven, 
While Key's avenging waters bear his name." 

There is a valley in Kerry called Glannagalt, i.r. the glen of 
the lunatics, and it is. believed that lunatics, no matter in what 
part of the kingdom they live, would, if left to themselves, find 
their way to the valley to be cured. " There are two little wells 
in the glen," remarks Dr. P. W. Joyce, " called Tobernagalt, the 
lunatic's well, to which the madmen direct their way, crossing 
the little stream that flows through the valley, at a spot called 
Ahagoltaun, the madmen's ford, and passing by Clochnagalt, the 
standing stone of the lunatics ; and they drink of the healing 
waters, and eat some of the cresses that grow on the margin — 
the water and the cress, and the secret virtue of the valley, will 
restore the poor wanderers to sanity." 

Fairy-, herb-, and charm-mongers believed that the witch or 
goddess, Aynia, possessed unlimited influence over the human 
frame, regarding her as equivalent to what they designated the 
"vital spark," which they imagined traversed the entire body 
once in twenty-four hours. Blood-letters would decline to 
operate on a day devoted to Aynia, for the efflux would carry 


away the " vital spark " and the patient would die. Thus the 
attributes of Aynia appear to have been multifold ; she even 
patronised literature, wept and lamented the loss of the learned, 
and on their departure from this life, introduced them into fairy 
realms. Two examples, both modern, of this aspect of the 
goddess' attributes— must suffice. Lindon, who died in 1783, de- 
picts her lamenting the demise of a man of genius : the passage 
may be thus translated : — 

" The greater number of the inspiring geniuses of the learned, 
Shed tears in abundance through excessive grief ; 
Aeibhinn and Aine were tearing their tresses." 

Dr. James Woods, lamenting the death of a bard, thus de- 
scribes (in Irish) the poet's reception by the goddess : — 

" He accompanied Aine throughout the pleasant district of Fail, 
And visited all the full residences of the blooming Bean-Siglw, 
To quaff copious draughts of the supreme fountain of Druidism, 

from chaste, brightly-polished goblets, 
With the view of whetting his genius and firing his spirit." 

Popular tradition bears testimony to former widespread belief 
in the magical powers of Bav, the war-goddess of the ancient 
Irish, who may be equated with Bellona of the Latins. Many 
places called Bovan or Bavan are supposed to signify "the 
fortress of Bav." Boa Island, in Lough Erne, is styled by 
the " Four Masters," the island of Bav ; and the peasantry, 
according to Dr. P. W. Joyce, still style it Inis-Badhbhan, the 
island of Bav. 

The royston-crow, or the "chattering grey fennog," as it 
is called by Irish-speaking people, is regarded with feelings of 
mingled dislike and curiosity by the peasantry, who still recite 
tales of depredations and slaughter in which this bird is repre- 
sented as exercising a sinister influence. A well-marked distinc- 
tion, is observable in the written as well as current traditions of 
the country, between the attributes of the scald-crow, or cornix, 
and those of the raven. The former is regarded not only as a 
bird of omen, but also as an agent in the fulfilment of what 
is decreed. The country people will not rob the nest of the 
cornix, and there is little doubt that its freedom from moles- 
tation is traceable to superstitious fear inspired by Bav in ancient 
times, for the croaking of the cornix was considered to be 
peculiarly unlucky, more so than the croaking of a raven. That 
the Eomans were also imbued with superstitious ideas with 
regard to the raven is evidenced by their saying, " it was not for 


nothing that the raven was just now croaking on my left hand." 
So also in Gray's fables : 

" That raven on yon left-handed oak, 
(Curse on his ill-hetidilig croak ;) 
Bodes me no good." 

In fact, not many years ago, sturdy men, who heard the 
scarecrow shriek in the morning, would abandon important pro- 
jects fixed for the same day. Nor is this superstition confined 
to Ireland alone ; the popular tales of Scotland and Wales, echoes 
of similar stories once current, and even now not quite extinct 
in this country, contain frequent allusions to this mystic bird. 
In a ms. in the library of Trinity College there is a tract on 
omens to be drawn from the croaking of ravens. To dream you 
see this bird is bad ; to dream you .see one flying is worse ; but 
to hear it croaking is worst of all ; if it flies round the head of 
anybody, the person so indicated is in imminent danger of death 
or of some great misfortune. Even hovering near a house it is 
a harbinger of ill, and to avert bad luck the following exorcism 
must be at once recited in Irish : " May fire and water be in you, 
bird of evil ! and may a curse be on your head for ever." 

The term Badb (pronounced Bav), signifying rage, fury, or 
violence, ultimately came to be applied to a witch, fairy, or god- 
dess, represented by the scare-, scald-, or royston-crow. Ancient 
Irish tracts, romances, and battle-pieces teem with details re- 
specting this goddess, and her sisters Neman, Macha, and 
Morrigan, or Morrigau, furies, witches, and sorceresses, able to 
confound whole armies. 

Bav would seem to have been the generic title of_ the beings 
ruling over battle and carnage, Bav's three so-called sisters repre- 
senting different aspects of the character of the supreme goddess. 
Neman afflicted her victims with madness ; Morrigan incited them 
to deeds of valour, strife, and battle ; Macha revelled amidst the 
bodies of the slain, and all three are described as being wives of 
Neit, the " God of Battle " of the pagan Irish. There is at least 
one passage in an Irish ms. which attributes to the goddess of 
battles the dedication of human heads. A gloss in the Yelbnr 
linukuf Leain, according to Professor Whitley Stokes, explains 
Macha as "The scald-crow," or "the third Morrigau," or 
"Great Queen." Madia's "fruit crop" is stated to be "the 
heads of men that have been slaughtered." If we read these 
extracts in connexion with the early practices of the Irish, as 
recorded by classical authorities, and the practices so frequently 
ascribed to them in early mss., and in the Irish Annals, the 
meaning and significance seems clear, and it is evident that the 
heaps of human crania piled up before the conqueror— often 


unearthed by present day archseologists — were offerings to the 
goddess Macha. 

Jlorrigan has been identified with Arrand or Ana, evidently 
the Aynia of popular folk-lore. Thus, even in the present day, 
the memory of the goddess of the ancient faith is still preserved 
in popular traditions. These stories abound in the North of Ire- 
land, where, in early romances, Ana or Aynia watched over the 
interests of the Ultonians. 

The comparative mythologist will find a curious correspond- 
ence between some of the attributes of the Irish Bav, and those 
of the Valkyria of Norse romance. In Irish tales of war and 
battle, Bav, in the form of a scald-crow, is always represented as 
foreshadowing, by its cries, the extent of the carnage about to 
take place. Thus, in an ancient battle story, the impending death 
of a hero is foretold thus : — 

" The red -mouthed Bar will cry around the house, 
For bodies it "srill be solicitous." 

Again : — 

' ' Pale Bav shall shriek, ' ' 

and whilst describing the carnage of a battle it is narrated that 
" the red-mouthed, sharp-beaked Bav " croaked over the heads of 
the heroes, for even until well advanced in the Christian Era it 
was considered a disgrace for a man to die a natural death, as 
thus graphically portrayed in the old saying : — 

" A bed death ; a priest's death, 
A straw death ; a cow's death, 
Such death likes not me." 

Bav is a term applied, even nowadays, in the South of Ire- 
land to a scolding woman or virago ; goddess and witch have 
finally degenerated into common shrews. 

The third celebrated "hag" of Irish folk-lore, i.e. Vera, is, 
in popular belief, of huge stature and forbidding mien. Accord- 
ing to a tradition, current in the county Sligo, she was so tall 
that she could easily wade all the rivers and lakes of Ireland, but 
one day when trying to cross Li>ch-<la-i)hedh it proved beyond her 
depth and she was drowned. Her "house" — the denuded 
chamber of a earn — on the mountain, near the lake, still remains, 
and is styled " Cailleach-a- Vent's House." 

Some of the early Christian female saints seem also to have 
been fond of wading. Such was the case with St. Araght of 
Coolavin, in the county Sligo. She was once engaged in forming 


a causeway, as a short cut, across part of Lough Gara, when 
a fisherman, observing that the saint possessed a good pair 
of ankles, approached to obtain a nearer view, whereupon the 
offended fair one flung down the stones out of her apron and 
abandoned her work. This heap and the unfinished causeway 
are still pointed out in corroboration of the story. 

At the northern end of the parish of Monasterboice, in the 
county Louth, there is a large sepulchral chamber in remarkably 
good preservation called " Cailleach Dirra's House." About two 
miles north of Dunmore East, county Waterford, is a rocky hill 
called Carriek-a-Dhirra. On its summit is an ancient pagan 
sepulchre consisting of five cists, also styled " Carrick-a-Dirra," 
after this mythical being, who also gave her name to " Hag's 
Head '' in the county Clare, as well as to the hills of Slieve-na- 
Cailleach, the site of the most wonderful sepulchral remains in 
Ireland. A gentleman of antiquarian tastes, living in the early 
part of the eighteenth century, invited Dean Swift to accompany 
him to these hills in order to collect the fables related about 
the district. The Dean turned into English verse the Irish tales 
thus collected. The following are a few of the lines bearing on 
the subject : — 

" Determined now her tomb to build, 
Her ample skirt with stones she filled, 
And dropped a heap on Oarnmoie, 
Then stepped one thousand yiirds to Loar, 
And dropped another goodly heap ; 
And then, with cue prodigious leap 
Unified Carnbeg ; and on its height 
Displayed the wonders of her might." 

< ('Donovan cites a quatrain of her alleged composition then 
current amongst the Irish speaking peasantry of Meath, which he 
thus translates : — 

" I am poor Oailleaeh liera. 

Many a wonder have I ever seen : 
1 have seen Cam-Bane a lake, 
Though it is now a mountain." 

Iii some parts of Ireland she is now looked upon as a banshee, 
and makes her appearance before the death of a member of some 
well-known families. 

It is narrated that on one occasion she turned the celebrated 
hero »f antiquity, Finn Mat-Cool, into a decrepid old man, but his 
soldiers threatened to dig through Slieve Cullian, in Armagh, 
and to drive her out of a cave in which she then had her 
residence, and forced ber to restore Finn to his former strength 


and symmetry. Under the shadow of the Slieve Gullian range 
there is an enchanted lake styled by the peasantry " Lough 
Cailleach Berri." One version of the story related of this 
mountain and lake is as follows :— Finn MacCool observed a 
hare, one side of whose head shone with a resplendent golden 
hue, the other side being of a dazzling silvery white. He 
instantly hallooed his hound Bran to the ehase, and for many 
days they incessantly followed the hare until they approached 
Lough Gullian. Finn was somewhat behind, being outpaced by 
the hound, and just as he reached the shores of the lake he met 
Bran returning, but so changed in appearance that he did not 
recognize his faithful dog until the animal, jumping on him, 
licked his hand, for the dog's coat, instead of lying in the natural 
manner, had the hairs turned the contrary way, as if they had 
grown from the tail toward the head, instead of from the head 
towards the tail. Much troubled at this strange alteration, Finn 
immediately concluded that some person had practised " druid- 
ism " (magic) on his favourite. 

He followed Bran to the edge of the lake, where he found a 
beautiful female in tears, and apparently overwhelmed with grief. 
Urged by a spirit of gallantry, Finn inquired the cause of her 
sorrow, and whether he could afford her assistance. She thanked 
him, and said she had dropped a golden ring into the water 
which she was unable to recover. Finn immediately plunged 
into the lake ; and after three attempts recovered the ring which 
he tendered to the owner, who, in accepting it, caught Finn by 
the hand, and changed him into an old man of miserable mien, 
with long white hair and silvery beard. Then springing aloft 
into the air, the witch disappeared into the midst of the hill, 
which rises over the lake. 

The chief officers of the Feni felt alarm at the prolonged 
absence of their chief, and when the dog Bran returned his 
odd appearance increased their fears. They at length under- 
stood the dog's strange movements, and followed him in their 
search after Finn. On arriving at the enchanted lake they found 
their chief, but so altered as not to be recognizable. He too in 
his wretched condition wished to remain unknown ; but the hound 
going up to him, wagging his tail and licking his master's hand, 
identified the missing warrior. Finn satisfied their curiosity by 
reciting what had befallen him, and ended by pointing out the 
retreat of the witch. They could not, however, discover the 
entrance to her underground mansion, so they commenced to 
level the hill by flinging it into the lake, when the enchantress 
appeared, and told them that if they spared her hill she, on her 
part, would restore to health both Finn Mac Cool and his dog. 

Probably the foregoing story is an allegory. Finn may have 


omitted the performance of some superstitions rite appertaining 
to the worship of the goddess, or he may have quarrelled with 
the druids and defied them, and after some time, having had the 
worst of the conflict, made his peace with the offended goddess 
and her priests. According to Mr. W. C. Borlace the story is 
a version of the sun-myth. Finn Mac Cool representing the sky 
turned to grey by the departing sun, who is driven out of her 
cave again, according to the usual myth current throughout the 
whole northern portion of the European continent. There are 
always, however, two sides to every question. Thus, while deal- 
ing at large with the theory that myths are derived from natural 
objects, Mr. Taylor condemns most emphatically the extravagance 
of solar interpretation which the writings of the meteorological 
school illustrate:' — " No one-sided interpretation can be permitted 
to absorb into a single theory such endless, many-sided corre- 
spondences as these. Hash inferences, which on the strength of 
mere resemblance, derive episodes of myth from episodes of 
nature, must be regarded with utter mistrust, for the student 
who has no more stringent criterion than this for his myths of 
sun and sky and dawn, will find them wherever it pleases him 
to seek them. It may be judged by simple trial what such a 
method may lead to : in legend, no allegory, no nursery rhyme, 
is safe from the hermeneutics of a thorough-going mythologic 

From a wild legend which came to the knowledge of Mr. 
Borlace, recited of St. Barry of Kilbarry, he was strongly 
of opinion that from it the non-Christian origin of the so-called 
saint can be detected ; and that his name scarcely veils his 
identity with the deity, who, as King of the Fairies, still presides 
over the land of the dark race. " The oral legend tells us that he 
(St. Barry) chased a huge allptiitmt, or serpent, into Lough Lagan, 
where it jumped into the water, but the saint made a prod at it 
with his Inn-hall, or staff, and thrust it through. The blood 
gushed out in such quantities that the whole lake became 
coloured red. With the force of his thrust the saint lost his 
balance, fell on one knee, and from the spot thus touched by his 
person, a clear spring burst forth, which he blessed. For Barry, 
or Barra, read Varra, and the reasons the Christians adopted 
St. Barry for this district is clear. A whole chapter might be 
written on the legends extant about Finvarra— all belonging to 
these districts. The pagan hero, or heroine, it is doubtful which, 
who probably had his seat on Slieve Bann, was none other than 
the White Varra." 

One story told of Cailleach Vera, amongst the peasantry near 
Slyne Head, shows that she could give good advice of a practical 
character, and that she was married. " One night she was on 


the sea with her children ; the night was still and dark, and it 
was freezing ; the cold went to their very marrow. She told 
them to make themselves warm. ' We cannot,' they said. ' Bale 
the sea out and in,' said she. ' Take the scoop, fill the hoat, and 
bale it out again.' They did so, and made themselves warm 
until morning." 

Other legends-make Cailleach Vera of Dedanann descent, and 
give her another name, Evlin. 

It is extremely rash to place reliance on the similarity in 
names of gods or goddesses worshipped in the east and in the 
west ; but mention may be made of a remarkable coincidence in 
this respect, in a notice written by M. St. Hilaire on human 
sacrifice, amongst the Khonds of Orissa, a mountainous district 
of India, who offered to the goddess of the earth, whom they 
named Bera, human hecatombs unequalled except amongst the 
ancient Mexicans. The bloody sacrifices are now a thing of the 
past ; but the deep root which the custom had taken was proved 
Iiy a naive complaint made to the English Besident, and the 
responsibility the Khonds laid upon him, should the anger of the 
Goddess Bera lead her to withdraw the protection and favour slie 
had until then accorded them. 

O'Donovan states that in the eastern counties of Ireland the 
banshee is styled bodhbh chaointe, pronounced bowe keenty ; he also 
■draws attention to the fact that the names of many banshees are 
preserved in Irish romantic tales as well as in elegies and other 
poems of which the most celebrated are : — " Aeibhinn (now 
Aoibhell) of Craigliath, near Killaloe, the banshee of the 
Dal-gCais of North Munster ; Cliodhna of Tonn Cliodhna, at 
Glandore, the banshee of the Mac Carthys and other families of 
South Munster ; Aine of Knockany in the county Limerick ; 
Una of Gnoc Sidhe-Una, the banshee of the O'Carrolls ; Cailleach 
Beirre of Dun Caillighe Beirre, the banshee of some of the 
Leinster and Meath families ; Grian of Cnoc Greine in Munster ; 
Aine of Lissan in Tyrone, so attached to the family of O'Corra ; 
Eibhlinn of Sliabh-Fuaid, &c, &c. Each of these is bainrioghan 
na bruighne, or queen of the fairy palace in her district." 

It is narrated in an Irish ms. that the Dalcassian hero, 
Dooling O'Hartigan, on his way to the Battle of Clontarf, was 
met by Aoibhell or Eevil,* the guardian spirit of the Dalcassian 
warriors, who endeavoured to dissuade him from going to the 
fight, predicting that he should indubitably be slain. She 
proffered him pleasure and long life would he but remain away. 
The warrior replied that nothing could induce him to abandon 

* O'Donovan slates that the correct form of the word is Aeibhinn, and that 
it glosses nnmniri, 'pleasant, sweet.' 

Tl/E BANSHEE. 305 

his friend in the day of battle. Eevil then cast around him a 
magical cloak, which rendered him invisible, and warned him 
that he would certainly be slain if he threw it off. In the heat 
of the conflict he forgot this warning, and he was, according to 
the prediction of the goddess, instantly slain. 

This good-natured banshee figures in various comparatively 
modern poetical pieces relating to the Dalcassian race. MacNamara 
in his Murk J'lneiil makes her the sybil of his poem. Another 
author, Merriman, introduces her into his facetious poem of T/ie 
Midnight Court, and depicts her as presiding at an assembly of 
the fairies at Craiglea, for the purpose of enacting regulations 
for the acceleration and growth of the Dalcassian population. 

In the Battle of Clontarf, before mentioned, the Irish king, 
Brian Boru, then of great age, was urged by his attendants to 
retire, but replied : — " Betreat becomes us not ; and I know that 
I shall not leave this place alive, for Eevil of Craglea appeared 
to me last night, and told me that I should be killed this day." 
Thus in this semi-historical tale two heroes (i. <■. the king and 
O'Hartigan, before mentioned), who were presumably Christians, 
are depicted as placing implicit faith in the powers of one of the 
old heathen deities. 

It is curious to observe that at this very period under notice, 
the Norse or Scandinavian foes of the Irish believed in female 
sprites and witches, who were, however, of a more gloomy and 
diabolical nature than those attendant on the Irish, and who also 
possessed the power of foretelling the dreadful slaughter about 
to ensue at Clontarf. Shortly before this battle a Norse leader, 
whilst at Caithness in Scotland, about to set sail for Ireland, 
sought to foresee his fate ; when leaving his home he noticed 
twelve women on horses riding towards a tumulus. These 
having suddenly vanished from view, he advanced to the tumulus, 
and looking through an aperture which he found in the stones, 
he saw women in the chamber in the interior of the earn who 
had commenced weaving, having human heads for woof and 
warp, a sword for a reed, an arrow for a shuttle. Whilst thus 
employed they sang these words : — 

" A'itt or orpinn, 
Fyrit valt'ulli, 
Riss rt'idi skei, 
Rignir hlodi," &e. 

Which Gray has amplified as follows : — 

'■' Xow llio storm begins to lour. 
Haste, the loom of hell prepare, 
Iron sleet of arrowy shower 
Hurtles in the darkened air. 


Glittering lances are the loom, 
Where the dusky warp we strain, 
Weaving many a soldier's doom, 
Orkney's woe and Radner's bane, 
See the gristly texture grow, 
('Tis of human entrails made) ; 
And the shafts that play below, 
Each a gasping warrior's head." 

When they had finished, these weird females drew off the 
web, and cut it, carrying away each her own part. The witches 
then rode off, six to the north and six to the south. 

The morose and diabolical character of Norse and Lapland 
witches is referred to by Milton in the description of Sin, the 
portress of Hell's gate, and her son, Death : — 

" Nor uglier follow the JJight-hag, when, called 
In secret, riding through the air she comes, 
Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance 
With Lapland witches, while the lab'ring Moon 
Eclipses at their charms." 

O'Donovan mentions that Magrath, in his W-ars of Thomond, 
introduces Bronach Boirne, or the hag of Burren Head (now 
Blackhead), as " foreboding the slaughter of the Abbey of Cor- 
•comroe, a.d. 1318, by washing fantastical skulls and other human 
bones on the margin of Loch Basga, now Loughrask, in the 
barony of Burren ; but in genuine Irish folk-lore Aebhinn is never 
represented as delighting in slaughter of this kind. She always 
grieves for it. In fact, she was not at all a foul and ugly 

One of the oldest references to a banshee is to be found in 
Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of Clonmacnoue, where it 
is stated that Crimthann, head king of Ireland at the commence- 
ment of the Christian era, was carried off by a banshee or fairy to 
her palace, where he seems to have passed a very enjoyable time ; 
and O'Flaherty, in his Oi/yriia, recounts this fairy tale as if it 
ranked as true history. 

It would appear that originally every family possessed its own 
particular banshee, i.e. the spirit of one of its ancestors who 
always appeared to announce by its weird warning (fig. 97) the 
approaching decease of any member of the family. 

" Anon she pours a harrowing strain 
And then— she sits all mute again — 
Now peals the wild funereal cry, 
And now — it sinks into a sigh." 



The banshee, however, finally became aristocratic, became 
identified with one of the ancient goddesses, only attaching her- 
self to celebrated families. In many instances she is regarded as 
the ghost of some person who had suffered violence from a pro- 
genitor of the family, and in revenge she utters her vengeful 
wail to announce approaching death to his descendants. Her 
cry often arises from a particular spot, from a spring, river, or 
lake with which her name is connected. The characteristic 
figure and voice of the banshee are unmistakable. 

The wail of the I in 

Fig. 97. 
A rchetype of the Keen. 

From Mr. ami Mrs. Hall's Ireland. 

The following verses, from Crofton Croker's luiiri/ Liytiuh, 
translated from a popular keen, are given on account of their 
introduction of the banshee. The mother of the dead yount; man 
speaks : — 

" Maidens, sing no more in gladness 
To your merry spinning wheels; 
Join the keener's vuiee of sadness, 
Feel for what a mother feels. 

" See the space within my dwelling — 
'Tis the cold blank space of death ; 
'Twits the banshee's voice came swelling 
Slowly o'er the midnight heath. 

'Twas the banshee's lonely wailing, 
Well 1 knew the voice of death, 

On the night-wind slowly sailing 
O'er the bleak and gloomy heath." 

The last verse seem to be a paraphrase of an allusion to the 
banshee in an Irish elegy by by John Mac Walter Walsh, of the 
county Kilkenny : — 

" On ouic, a uapail 615 mo cpoioe ! 
t)o pepeab 50 uubac an bean pi,v' ': 
G meooan cunn na^nem"- office 
lp euiiiac 00 1M 05 eagcaoineao!" 


Thus rendered into English, by O'Donovan : — 

""Was it. for thee, youth in love allied, 
Close to my bosom as the spirit there ; 
The banshee, on the lonely mountain side, 

Poured her long wailings thro' the midnight air?" 

The banshees warned mortals whom they protected of impend- 
ing danger, pointed out the right line of conduct to pursue, and 
appear to have been of quite as much use to the old pagans, in 
worldly and other matters, as his guardian angel, or saint, is to 
the Christian of the present. It is on record that the Banshee 
has followed the family to which it was attached to distant 
lands ; for space and time are no impediments to the mystic 
power appointed to bear the prophecy of death. 

When the head of a noble family died, its banshee, like a 
mediaeval herald, announced the event, and the news was passed 
on by every local banshee from plaee to place until it had made 
the circuit of the country. The keen composed on the death of 
Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry, describes how "from crag 
to crag the signal flew '' : — 

" When I heard lamentations, 

And sad -warning cries. 
From the banshees of many 

Broad districts arise, 
I besought thee, Christ, 

To protect me from pain. 
I prayed ; but my prayers 

They were offered in vain. 

" Aina from her closely- 
Hid nest did awake, 

The woman of wailing 
At G-ur's voicy lake. 

From Glen Fogra of words 
Came a mournful whine ; 

And all Kerry's hags 
Wept the lost Geraldine. 

• The banshees of Youghal 

And of stately, 
Were joined in their grief 

By wide Imokilly. 
Carah Mona iu gloom 

Of deep sorrow appears, 
And allKinalmeaky's 

Absorbed into tears. 


" The banshee of Dunqueen 

In Bweet scmg did deplore, 
To the spirit that watches 

On dark Dun-an-Oir. 
A?id Ennismore's maid 

By the Feal's gloomy wave, 
With her clear- voice did mourn 

For the fall of the brave. 

" On stormy Slieve Mis 

Spread the cry far and wide, 
From steep Slieve Finnaleun 

The wild eagle replied. 
'Mong the Reeks, like the 

Thunder-peal's echoing rout, 
It bursts, and deep bellows 

Bright Brandon gives out." 

In the elegy on the Knight of Kerry, before quoted, there 
occurs a humorous quatrain recounting how, on this occasion, 
when the banshee was heard, in the town of Dingle, lamenting 
the death of the Knight, each one of the merchants was in mortal 
terror lest the mournful cry should be the herald of his own 
death ; but the poet, satirically, assures them that their fears 
were quite groundless : — 

" Gnnp an tDaingion 'miaip neaps-mo an bp6n§ol, 
t)o slac eajjla ceannuioce an 6n6paicc : 
'Na b-caob p6in nfp baogal D6ibpm : 
Nt 6aomit> mnd pige an p6pc pan." 

His re-assurance is thus rendered from the Irish : — 

" At Dingle the merchants 

In terror forsook 
Their ships nnd their business, 

They trembled and shook. 
Some fled to concealment ; 

The fools thus to fly ! 
For no trader a banshee 

Will utter a cry ! " 

Once in seven years a female apparition appears at the earn 
on Knocknarea, near Sligo, and any mortal who chances then to 
see her, is certain to encounter some serious misfortune within 
twelve months. The spectral illusions so frequently observed 
upon many mountains, notably in Germany, and by which 
beholders were so long perplexed, have been explained by the 
discovery of the principles of reflection and atmospheric refraction 
of the rays of light. Increased information on similar subjects 



has, latterly, been so great that it has taken all supernatural 
romances out of our lives, and left us not even the ghost of a ghost. 
Nowadays belief in the existence of the banshee is fast fading 
away, and in a few more years it will only be remembered in 
legends of the marvellous. 

What the Irish designate "Fetches," the English call 
"Doubles." The Fetch approximates to the Highlander's 
" second sight," and is a mere shadow, resembling in stature, 
features, and dress, a living person well known to the beholder. 
If the apparition appears in the morning a happy longevity for 
the original may be confidently predicted ; but if it appears in 
the evening the immediate dissolution of the living prototype 
may be as surely anticipated. When the Fetch appears agitated 
in its movements a violent or painful death is indicated for the 
doomed prototype, who is known at the time to be labouring 
under some serious illness. Individuals often behold their own 
Fetches, and the Phantom may make its appearance at the same 
time, and in different places, to several persons. Spirit-like, it 
flits before the sight of the beholder, walking leisurely in front, 
and mysteriously vanishing. 

The wail of the banshee, or the natural moan of the wind in 
crevices in the rocks, frequently takes place just before the 
approach of a storm. Moaning waves are often alluded to by 
Irish bards ; and a description of the sounds heard at Portna- 
traghan, between Benbaun and Bengore, on the north coast of 
the county Antrim, may be considered typical of other localities. 
Portnatraghan signifies the " harbour of the lamentations," and 
no more beautiful or appropriate designation could have been 
chosen for it. A stranger, unacquainted with its peculiarities, 
visiting the locality for the first time, describes the effect which 
this freak of nature produced upon his mind. He heard, sud- 
denly, a heavy long-drawn sigh quite close beside him as he 
imagined, though no human being was in sight, and as he con- 
tinued to listen intently, the sigh was repeated at regular inter- 
vals. When he regained self-possession he investigated the 
matter, and discovered that the sound, which had so startled him, 
issued from a fissure in the rocks over which he was standing. 
Close to this he found a second fissure from which unearthly 
groans proceeded, so like those of a human being, that it was 
distressing to listen to them. If such were the impressions 
produced on a nineteenth- century tourist by these mysterious 
sounds, how much more appalling must they not have been to 
the untutored savage? 

A friend of 0' Donovan's sent him the following account of 
the supposed wail of the banshee of his own family, which was 
of Irish aristocratic, or even royal descent ; the anecdote, like that 


relating to Portnatraghan, shows how easy it is for the most 
attentive listener to misconstrue the origin of mysterious or un- 
usual sounds : — " In November, 1820, when I was in attendance 
on a near and dear relative's death-bed in an old castle in the 
county of Westmeath, I heard a most extraordinary sound resemb- 
ling that of an iEolian harp, but also having a strong similitude 
to the human voice. It was more nearly allied to singing than 
instrumental music. I never heard anything like it before of 
since. Had I been superstitious, I should have at once considered 
it to be the song or wail of the banshee. The sound appeared to 
me to be everywhere in the room, and not to come from any 
point ; and I feel certain that the servants in the house at the 
time might, with a little stretch of their fancy, have placed it 
anywhere except in the real locus from whence it proceeded, and 
that was the throat of the almost unconscious invalid. Under 
the circumstances in which I was placed, I could not escape 
examining into the nature of the extraordinary sounds ; and I 
found they were due to an involuntary action of the organs of 
voice, coupled with the spasmodic breathing of the patient, which 
changed every moment, producing a sort of ventriloquistic singing 
or melody which was exquisitely harmonious and perfectly un- 
earthly, as was observed by one of the listeners, who did not ven- 
ture to form an opinion as to the nature of the sounds she heard. 
The sound heard on the occasion referred to is not, I feel certain, 
the only instance of its occurrence, for I have heard of others. 
But sensible people do not generally like to speak of such things ; 
and servants, nurses, and indeed others who have heard of ban- 
shees, and would believe in their existence without investigation, 
have attributed such sounds to their agency. I have known a 
shutter closed, when a window-sash was not entirely shut down, 
emit sounds not unlike the .ZEolian harp, but this was not the 
sound I refer to above." 

According to Dr. P. W. Joyce, Cliodhna (pronounced ' '/«■««} 
is " the potent banshee that rules, as queen, over the fairies of 
South Munster ; and you will hear innumerable stories among 
the peasantry of the exercise of her powerful spells. ... In the 
Dinnsenchus there is an ancient poetical love story, of which 
Cleena is the heroine, wherein it is related that she was a 
foreigner, and that she was drowned in the harbour of Glandore, 
near Skibbereen, in Cork. In this harbour the sea, at certain 
times, utters a very peculiar deep, hollow, and melancholy roar 
among the caverns of the cliffs, and which was formerly believed 
to foretell the death of a king of the South of Ireland ; and this 
surge has been from time immemorial called Tonn Chrwi, Cleena's 

O'Donovan remarks that when the wind is N.E. off the shore, 



" the waves, resounding in the caverns, send forth a deep, loud, 
hollow, monotonous roar which, in a calm night, is peculiarly 
impressive to the imagination, producing sensations either of 
melancholy or fear." The cliffs, from the caverns of which 
Cleena sends forth this remarkable wail, are the subject of a 
Latin poem, written by Dean Swift in 1723. The great Irish 
wit mates no allusion to Cleena, which the genius of Ovid would 
have turned to so much account : — 

*' Ecce ingens fragmen scopuli quod vertice summo 
Desuper impendet, nullo fundamine nixum 
Decidet in fluctus : maiia undique et undique saxa 
Horrisono stridore tonant, et ad aethera murmur 
Erigitur ; trepidatque suis Neptunus in undis 
Nam longa venti rabie, atque aspergine erebra 
CEquorei laticis, specus ima rupe cavatur: 
Jam fultura ruit, jam summa cacumina nutant 
Jam eadit in praeceps moles, et verberat undas."* 

Cleena had one of her palaces in the centre of a great rock, 
situated about five miles from Mallow, still well known by the 
name of Carrig- Cleena, and there is a legend attached to it, 
recounted by Windele, from which Cleena's moral character 
appears to have been doubtful. A market or fair was held in the 
neighbourhood ; and on these occasions she came out of her abode 
and carried off every good-looking young man at the fair who 
pleased her. It was told how a peasant one evening had seen 
the whole space about the rock brilliantly lighted up, the entrance 
door thrown open, and a fair lady standing within. Some 
people cultivated the ground around the rock with potatoes ; but 
Cleena was heard within piteously wailing, as if lamenting the 
desecration, and the men desisted. 

The cromleac in the townland of Ahaglaslin, county Cork, is 
styled Callaheencladdig, and there is an Irish refrain relating to 
it, which has been translated : — 

' ' A little maiden of the shore 
Lamenting loud and waiting sore." 

The designation of this monument has also been translated 
the " Little Hag of the Seashore," and the " hag " used formerly 

* "Beliold a mighty mass of rook, whose topmost peak hangs over, and sinks 
down into the waves, with no foundation there. The sea and rocks around re- 
echo with the dreadful din, and even to the sky the noise ascends, the waves of 
ocean also quiver, for by the continual raging of the wind, and by the constant 
washing of the waves, a cave is hollowed out from the solid rock. Now the 
storm strikes it, its topmost peaks thereby are shaken, and the mighty mass falls 
crashing down into the seething waves." 


to utter lamentations when anyone died in the neighbourhood. 
W. C. Borlace is of opinion that she can be identified, with 
tolerable certainty, as Cleena, " whose house on the flat stony 
seashore, consisting of a great squarish natural rock, was pointed 
out to me, at a turn in the road, just beyond the dolmen. Stories 
were current of her inveigling young fellows to the rock whence 
they never returned." 

Even Cleena had a more estimable side to her character. 
Some of the peasantry of the country around Carrig Cleena 
regard her in the light of a benefactress. In her neighbourhood 
no cattle die from the influence of the evil eye, nor the malignant 
power of the unfriendly spirits of the air. Her goodness pre- 
serves the harvest from the blights which dissipate the farmer's 
hopes. The peasantry are the children of her peculiar care. 
She often appears, disguised in the homely garb of a peasant 
girl, to announce to some late wayfarer the expulsion from her 
dominions of invading spirits, and the consequent certainty of 
an abundant havest. Cleena is also stated to dwell in the Bay 
of Dublin, and to cry whenever the head of an old Milesian 
family dies. 

The late J. O'Beirne Crowe when writing on the ancient god- 
desses of the pagan Irish, states that the Irish possessed foreign 
deities; and he identified the above mentioned Cleena, L'liodna, 
or < 'liila, with the Gaulish Clutonda. 

A legend of the hero Cuchullin (Coolin) recites that, being 
pursued by a Cailleach, or witch, he ran southwards towards the 
ocean, until finding himself literally " between the devil and the 
deep sea," he sprang from a headland on to a rock in the ocean, 
closely pursued by the witch ; then, with a superhuman exertion, 
he sprang back to the mainland ; but the hag, attempting the 
same feat, jumped short, fell into the flood, and was drowned. 
The body of the witch, carried northward by the current, drifted 
ashore at a point called Cancalee, or the Hug's Head — a singular 
conformation of rock, worn into a grotesque resemblance of the 
human profile. The waves, however, are not, as we see, suffered 
to claim undisputed this rude sculpture as their own ; legends 
relate that it is the body of this malignant hag, who for her 
misdeeds was transformed into stone, and doomed to remain 
there for ever, lashed by the raging billows of the ocean. 

On the hill of Carrick, overlooking the river Boyne, there is 
a rock denominated the " Witch's Stone," which stands upon its 
northern brow. The legend attached to it recounts that a witch 
hurled this boulder from the hill of Croghan at some early 
Father of the Church, but missed his reverence, and the boulder 
fell where it is now to be seen. 
Meendacalliagh, in the parish of Lower Fahan, county Donegal. 


signifies " the mountain flat of the two hags." A locality near 
Monasterboice is styled " the Witch's Hollow," and a point, of 
rock, near Youghal, jutting into the river Blackwater, is desig- 
nated Sron-C'aiUighe, " the Hag's Nose," or promontory ._ 

Legends are still recounted amongst the peasantry of immense 
earns, tumuli, rude stone monuments of various descriptions, 
cashels, and even of the comparatively modern round towers, 
being erected in the course of one night by a Cailleach, or 
hag. A rude stone structure near Dundalk, figured in Wright's 
Louthiana, and in the Archaologia, is styled by the country 
people Fags-na-ain-eigh, i.e. the one night's work ; the earn at 
Heapstown, county Sligo, is also styled Fas-na-hannahy. The 
designation Fas-na-hannahy (Fas-na-haon-oidhche), "the growth of 
one night," i.e. a mushroom, is applied by the peasantry princi- 
pally, however, to earns. The name may probably first have 
been given to some earns on account of their general appearance 
resembling that of an enormous mushroom, whilst the legend 
of their erection in a single night was then probably invented 
to account for their name. 

A supernatural being, styled Grian, is reputed to have been 
buried in various localities ; for several rude stone monuments 
in different parts of the kingdom are still popularly known as 
her last resting-place. 

The legend, which transforms Grian from a beautiful charm- 
ing young woman into an ugly vindictive old witch, relates that 
five young warriors, sons of a chief named Conall, attacked the 
" fairy mansion " of Grian's father, and destroyed the place. To 
avenge this act, the sorceress transformed them into badgers. 
When Conall heard of the fate of his sons, he set out to fight the 
enchantress. Grian addressed him in a conciliatory manner ; 
but, when he unguardedly came close to her, she vanquished 
him by means of a powerful spell. 

The name of the Castle of Carrigogunnell, on the banks of the 
Shannon, is understood by the peasantry to mean " the Rock of 
the Candle " ; and, to account for the name, a legend is narrated 
by them of a witch, named Grana, who long ago lived on it, and 
nightly lighted an enchanted candle. Whoever beheld its rays 
died before the morning's sun rose. Crofton Croker, in his 
legend of this locality, depicts Grana as of gifintic size and 
frightful in appearance . ' ' Her eyebrows grew into eaX " : other with 
a grim curve, and beneath their matted bristles, deeply sunk in 
her head, two small grey eyes darted forth baneful looks of evil. 
From her deeply-wrinkled forehead issued forth a hooked beak, 
dividing two shrivelled cheeks. Her skinny lips curled with a 
cruel and malignant expression, and her prominent chin was 
studded with bunches of grizzly hair." So numerous were Grana's 


victims that " it was the mighty Finn himself who lifted up his 
voice and commanded the fatal candle of the hag, Grana, to be 
extinguished. ' Thine, Eegan, be the task,' he said, and 
to him he gave a cap thrice charmed by the magician Luno of 

" With the star of the same evening the candle of death 
burned on the rock, and Eegan stood beneath it. Had he beheld 
the slightest glimmer of the blaze, he, too, would have perished, 
and the hag, Grana, with the morning's dawn, rejoiced over his 
corpse. When Eegan looked towards the light, the charmed 
cap fell over his eyes and prevented his seeing. The rock was 
steep, but he climbed up its craggy side with such caution and 
dexterity, that, before the hag was aware, the warrior, with 
averted head, had seized the candle, and flung it with prodigious 
force into the river Shannon, the hissing waters of which quenched 
its light for ever." 

" Then flew the charmed cap from the eyes of Began, and he 
beheld the enraged hag, with outstretched arms, prepared to 
seize and whirl him after her candle. Eegan instantly bounded 
westwprd from the rock, just two miles, with a wild and wondrous 
spring. Grana looked for a moment at the leap, and then, 
tearing up a huge fragment of the rock, flung it after Began with 
such tremendous force that her crooked hands trembled and her 
broad chest heaved with heavy puffs, like a smith's labouring 
bellows, from the exertion. The ponderous stone fell harmless to 
the ground ; for the leap of Began far exceeded the strength of 
the furious hag. In triumph he returned to Finn : — 

' The hero, valiant, renowned, and learned, 
White-toothed, graceful, magnanimous, and active.' 

" The hag, Grana, was never heard of more ; but the stone 
remains, and, deeply imprinted in it, is still to be seen the mark 
of the hag's fingers. That stone is far taller than the tallest 
man, and the power of forty men would fail to move it from the 
spot where it fell." 

In the townland of Carrigmooina, county Waterford, there is 
a conical hill, crowned by a large rock, in which dwells the 
enchantress Murna. When the wind blows strongly in certain 
directions it produces in some crevices of the rock a loud roar, 
and the cr> ^„ry people state that this sound is the humming of 
Murna's spinning wheel. 

The \ ater spirit required his tribute, and hence is supposed 
to have arisen the wide-spread reluctance amongst primitive 
seaside folk to rescue a drowning man from the water, the old 
superstition that 

" Save a stranger from the sea, 
And he'll turn your enemy," 


might many years ago have been considered universally prevalent 
along the Irish littoral.* 

When, in the Solomon Islands, a man accidentally falls into 
the water, and a shark attacks him, he is not allowed to escape. 
If he succeeds in eluding the shark, his fellow-tribesmen will 
throw him back to his doom, believing him to be marked out for 
sacrifice to the gods. A Hindoo will not rescue even a comrade 
should he fall into the waters of the sacred Ganges ; for he thinks 
that the spirit of the river would thereby be defrauded of his 
just due. Tylor quotes an anecdote from Bohemia to the effect 
that some fishermen refused to save a drowning man, as they 
feared that the "waterman," that is, the water demon, would 
take away their luck in fishing and drown them at the first 
opportunity. In Egypt this idea of sacrifice to the water sprite 
is evidently present in the minds of some of the Arabs on the 
Nile. Before trusting their boat to the mercy of the cataract 
when descending the river a stick is thrown into the current ; if 
this disappears in the swirl of the waters it is looked upon as a 
favourable omen, or that the offering has been accepted. 

In an article on Iona, in the Fortnightly Review, signed 
Fiona Macleod, the writer states : — " When I was a child I used 
to throw offerings in small coins, flowers, shells, even a newly- 
caught trout, once a treasured flint arrow-head, into the sea- 
lough by which we lived. My Hebridean nurse had often 
told me of Shony, a mysterious sea-god, and I know I spent 
much time in wasted adoration ; a fearful worship, not unmixed 
with disappointment and some anger." 

The original level of the Forum at Borne was nearly forty feet 
below the present-day surface, and this ancient level was very 
slightly above that of the Tiber. Thus in early times the Forum 
was a swamp, into which Cnrtius plunged with his horse, in 
accordance with the widespread belief that a shaking quagmire 
can only be given solidity by the sacrifice of a human life. It is 
a mistake to suppose that the gulf into which he rode was an 
earthquake chasm. At the low level of the original Forum it 
would have at once filled with water. 

The water demon, in modern times, assumes, in different 
localities of Ireland, various forms and attributes, according to 
the ideas of the peasantry in regard to its nature. The crops on 
Coolnahinch Hill, in the county Meath, were, in olden times, 
always eaten by the u II fish, which issued from the adjoining lake. 
This fabulous monster, according to the oldshannaehies, or story 

* In Ireland the body of a drowned person is discovered by floating a bundle 
of straw on the surface of the water ; it will stop and quiver over the spot 
where the corpse is lying. This superstitious custom is very widespread. 


tellers of the neighbourhood, is an aquatic horse, which lives at 
the bottom of Moynagh lake and other sheets of water in the 
county Meath. UUfish is a corruption of vllphiast — pronounced 
ulfri'xt, which has the same general meaning as piast. Oil, or 
ull, is a prefix, signifying very large, so that ollphiast is a very 
large piatt, or serpent-demon. 

There is a desolate-looking, but highly picturesque tarn in a 
hollow on the slope of Topped Mountain, county Fermanagh, a 
little to the south of the tarn that crowns the summit of the 
ridge. The country people recount that an apparition, in the 
shape of a water-horse, sometimes emerges from its bosom, 
traverses the wild heath of Cloghtogle to Loughascaul, where it 
descends again to its watery domain. 

In the vicinity of a cashel on Slieve Mis, county Kerry, are 
two dark forbidding-looking lakelets lying in the hollow of the 
mountain. One is regarded by the peasantry as unfathomable. 
The tarn derives interest from a legend in the Leabharnu h- Uvl/nv, 
relating that it was once infested by an enormous jiinst, which 
devoured both the inhabitants of the fortress and their cattle. 
On one occasion when the hero Cuchullin (Coolin) was near the 
cashel, he heard, at midnight, the approach of the monster. 
" These be no friends of mine," said he, " that come here "; and 
he fled before it, jumped over the cashel wall, and alighted in the 
centre of the enclosure, at the door of the king's residence — a 
record leap. The Irish saints are depicted as bolder in their con- 
tests with water demons than this hero of Pagan times. Saint 
Mochua of Balla overcame a horrid monster which infested one 
of the Connaught lakes, whilst the saints, Senanus and Kevin, 
struggled successfully with the pia.sts or dragons of Scattery and 

There is a piuxl at the bottom of a lake in the south of Ireland 
imprisoned under a great vat. In olden times the monster was 
the scourge of the whole country side, but on the arrival of St. 
Patrick on a missionary tour, it was induced by the saint to try the 
luxury of a residence under a huge vat, produced, by the national 
saint, for the occasion. St. Patrick promised to set him at 
large on the next Monday, i.e. Limn, an expression which may 
be interpreted either as Monday or the Day of Judgment. On 
a calm evening the poor deluded monster is heard bitterly 
complaining and appealing to St. Patrick in these words, "It 
is a long Luan (Monday), Padrig ! " 

The oldest written reference, known to the writer, to belief 
in supernatural aquatic horses was discovered by O'Donovan, in 
a vellum manuscript, in Trinity College, Dublin. It is a very extra- 
ordinary passage. Renders interested in the subject are referred 
to the following literal translation, as given by the discoverer. 


" Tria mirabilia de Glenn -Dallainn in Tironia, viz. Aper da 
Druim-liath ; Bestia de Letter-Dallain, et Damh-Dile (Bos diluvii) 
Bestia de Letter-Dallain caput humanum habuit ; forma follis 
fabrilis in reliqua parte fuit. Equus aquatilis, qui exat in laeu 
juxta ecclesiam copulavit cum filia, sacerdotis (ecclesias) ita ut 
genera vit hanc Bestiam ex ea." 

O'Donovan also recounts how, in the seventeenth century, 
one of his ancestors, living on the lands of Timahoe, county 
Kilkenny, close to a small lake, out of which horses of black, 
colour and very beautiful symmetry were observed to emerge, 
became very anxious to learn all about them, and at length dis- 
covered that they were enchanted horses which had inhabited 
this lough from a remote period. Complying with the directions 
of one skilled in the Black Art, he caught a mare, which remained 
with him till she had had seven foals. At last the farmer, 
disregarding, or forgetting, the instructions which he had re- 
ceived, violated the rules by means of which he was able to 
retain the beautiful mare in his possession. She thereupon 
neighed seven times, broke loose, and galloped towards the lake, 
followed by her seven black foals. The farmer pursued them, 
but only arrived at the brink of the water in time to see the 
mare and her foals plunging into the lake, the mare first and 
then the foals in succession, according to their ages. He never 
saw them until seven years had elapsed, and by that time he 
had forgotten the mode by which to attempt their recapture. 
This kind of legend is not confined to Ireland ; traces of it are to 
be found almost everywhere. 

Enchanted horses used to emerge by night from Lough 
Bamor, in the county Cavan, and eat the oats in a farmer's 
field. The enraged owner managed at last to catch a foal, which 
he broke and used for ordinary purposes. As he was riding late 
one evening, along the shore of the lake, the water-horses in it 
commenced to neigh. On hearing the sound the foal, on which 
he was mounted, suddenly plunged into the water, taking his 
rider with him, and neither foal nor rider were ever again seen. 
A legend of Lough Caogh, or the Blind Lake, near Kiltubrid 
Church, county Leitrim, relates how a lad, working in a field 
close to the lake, caught a stray horse and commenced to harrow 
with him. The "water-horse" at once ran away, dragging 
harrow and boy with him, and disappeared beneath the waters of 
the lough. Labourers, hearing the shrieks of the youth, hurried 
to his aid ; but when they arrived on the shore the waters were 
already dyed the colour of blood, The moral to be drawn from 
the story is that one should not catch horses of a neighbour to 
do farm work, lest something unfortunate should occur. 

One very dry summer's day the level of a lake in the county 


Cavan became unusually low, and the ruins of a castle were 
observed beneath the waters ; a well-known swimmer dived to 
the bottom and soon reappeared with a golden cup, hotly pursued 
by the guardian of the treasure, in the form of a huge eel, from 
which he only just managed to escape. 

Another enchanted eel of immense proportions was observed 
passing from Lough Ramor down the Blackwater ; it broke 
through two nets, but was at last captured and brought ashore. 
It then suddenly put its tail into its mouth, making itself into 
the shape of a hoop, blew a shrill whistle, and trundled with 
lightning speed into the river. 

Legends regarding these mythical demons assume various 
forms in individual cases, and many are the tales the people 
relate of fearful encounters with a monster covered with long 
hair and mane. Legends of aquatic monsters are very ancient ; 
almost all sheets of water possess their local demon. O'Flaherty 
has a very circumstantial story of an "Irish crocodile" that 
lived at the bottom of Lough Mask. The commonest legend 
attached nowadays to almost all lakes is that they are the home 
of a frightful serpent, and that no one will swim in the water for 
fear of being swallowed by it. The story of immense deposits 
of treasures buried deep in the bosom of the lakes and jealously- 
guarded by aquatic monsters, may have arisen from the actual 
deposition of treasure, or what was then regarded as such, in 
lakes or fountains, as an offering to or part of an ancient cult of 

In ancient as well as in modern times, what men could not 
understand they put down to the supernatural, an easy method 
of explaining many things, and it was formerly, and is often 
still, the practice to attribute to unseen powers many evils and 
troubles for which we ourselves are directly responsible. In 
Ireland the numerous families of the peasantry were generally 
ascribed by them to " the will of God," quite ignoring the fact 
that their will was the immediate cause of the increase of the 
population. Some of the clerical profession now take a sensible 
and up-to-date, view of the subject. During the typhoid epidemic 
in Maidstone in 1897, one of the clergy is reported to have 
publicly declined to use the special prayer in the Church of 
England Liturgy set apart for epidemics, as the prayer refers to 
the plague as a visitation from God, while the clergyman held 
the opinion that it was entirely brought about by the remissness 
of man, in the form of the Town Council, who, according to his 
belief, had neglected the proper supervision of the water supply : 
in bis mind, the cause of the outbreak of the epidemic. 

What became of the sanitary science of pagan Roman civili- 
zation, and why the ages of faith in Europe were ages of filth 


are interesting questions which await solution. Without some 
system of sanitation not inferior to that of modern London, 
ancient Rome would have been a physical impossibility. _ Why 
did Roman sanitation completely disappear ? Why did the 
triumph of Christianity bring about a reversion to filth, so com- 
plete that, until comparatively lately, the habits and manner 
of living of the entire population were undoubtedly what we 
should now regard as bestial. It may be suggested that the 
introduction of Christianity was not the boon it is commonly 
supposed to have been, a moral which Gibbon, in his history, 
has endeavoured to point. The more rapidly a new and very 
revolutionary idea gains the mastery the more rapidly is the 
new equilibrium established. Now, in Europe, Christianity pro- 
gressed but slowly. The old civilization gradually crumbled 
away : attacked, undermined, it fell at last. Chaos supervened, 
and from it a new order of things was slowly evolved. 

There is nothing more certain than that among all barbarous 
peoples, disease, in every form, is regarded as the work of malig- 
nant spirits, and but for their interference human beings would 
live on for ever. Disease is regarded by the savage as some- 
thing outside and foreign to humanity, brought about by a 
demon in the service of an enemy ; therefore, the intruder, or 
disease, must be expelled by a more powerful spirit than that 
which first summoned it. Thus, if t'le witch-doctor, when called 
in, is more powerful than the evil spirit, he expels the malign 
influence and the patient recovers ; if he be less powerful, he is 
impotent against the demon and the patient dies. 

The receipt alleged to have been prescribed by the great Irish 
physician, Dianket.. for the expulsion of a demon from the human 
body was to make a decoction from the roots of the alder and of 
the apple tree, to be boiled with the brains of a wild hog and 
drunk fasting ; the potion to be administered until the bewitched 
person casts up the demon out of the stomach. 

These Irish demons possessed the power to kill those persons 
against whom they bore animosity, or to transform them into 
wild animals. Sometimes their ideas of revenge presented a 
comical aspect. A demon installed himself inside a King of 
Connaught, and endowed him with such a voracious appetite 
that, in a year and a-half, his consumption of victuals caused a 
famine in the land. The king's breakfast consisted of two fat 
cows, a pig, thirty eggs, sixty wheaten cakes, and a barrel of 
ale, with a commensurate luncheon, dinner, and supper. The 
king was only able to subsist by travelling about his kingdom, 
visiting in turns all his well-to-do subjects, and he moved on to 
the next house when he had eaten up all the provision possessed 
by his unwilling host. 


This wild legend of an Irish king, accidentally furnishing 
lodgings to an evil spirit, is paralleled by that related of a 
modern English nobleman who, in imagination, swallowed the 
Christian devil. From the most generous motives for the wel- 
fare of the human race, he refused to give any facilities to the 
foul fiend to regain his liberty, but his medical attendant over- 
came his resolution by surreptitiously administering an emetic 
in his food. 

It appears very evident that the malignant beings now styled 
hags and witches, are but degenerated representatives of the 
goddesses of the ancient Irish : whilst the fairies, which we shall 
treat of next, are probably representatives of an aboriginal and 
conquered people. 

It is quite possible, and indeed most highly probable, that 
the Irish goddesses, or witches, were not originally supposed by 
their worshippers to be so very malevolent, but when Christianity 
invaded and captured their territories, their disposition towards 
their former worshippers was imagined to have changed, and 
they plagued the people — or at least were thought to have done 
so — to wreak on them vengeance for their change of faith. 

With all our modern science, and all our boasted knowledge, 
we cannot quite extinguish the last spark of superstition in the 
mind, although with the lips we may deny its existence. If, 
then, descendants of generations of more or less cultured ances- 
tors still retain slumbering embers of belief in supernatural 
agencies, is it to be wondered at that savages, in all ages and in 
all climes, grovelling in ignorance, descend, at times, to depths 
of the greatest self-abasement, and to the perpetration of what, 
to us, appears the grossest absurdities, in order to propitiate 
imaginary spirits, benign or malign. 

To one who believed himself under the influence of these 
malignant hags or witches, misfortunes were not the result of 
accident ; sickness was intensified by pangs of mental anguish. 
His cattle did not die of natural disease, but were victims of 
blighting spells ; his corn was not laid by the action of winds 
and rain, but by the tramplings of furious fiends, belief in 
whose existence was at one time almost universal ; and the later 
expounders of primitive belief, by pretending to control the 
acts of these terrible beings, gained complete ascendancy over 
the minds of the credulous multitude. Superadded to this fear, 
there must have lurked in the mind of the aborigine the general 
idea that, though the world in day time belongs to the living, in 
night time it belongs to the dead. 

It is a very mistaken idea to suppose that all this farrago of 
seeming nonsense was invented by a priesthood for the purpose 
of enslaving the masses. A priesthood originated in the idea 


•conceived by man of superhuman rulers of the universe ; butthe 
class elected to the office originated priestcraft, to lend fictitious 
dignity to their office and to add to their emoluments. Old 
world ideas are almost inconceivable to us in these modern times. 
Carlyle describes paganism as " a bewildering, inextricable jungle 
of delusions, confusions, falsehoods and absurdities covering the 
whole field of life. A thing that fills us with astonishment, almost, 
if it were possible, with incredulity, for truly it is not easy to 
understand that sane men could ever calmly, with their eyes 
open, believe and live by such a set of doctrines." All religions 
in their origin possess some germ of truth, and " we shall begin 
to have a chance of understanding paganism, when we first 
admit that, to its followers, it was at one time earnestly true. 
Let us consider it very certain that men did believe in paganism ; 
men with open eyes, sound senses, men made altogether like 
ourselves, that we, had we been there, should have believed in 

Whatever may be thought of the character-delineations of the 
ancient goddesses of the Irish, their implacability, their vin- 
dictiveness, as well as on the other hand, their occasional acts of 
benevolence, and the assistance they rendered to those whom 
they considered ought to be protected ; they were, at any rate, 
superior to the imbecility, depicted in mediaeval and even modern 
representations of the devil, who in his dealings is sure to be baffled 
and cheated. After paying the fair market price for a soul, he 
loses his bargain through the equivocal wording of the covenant ; 
when he is agreeing for the first living thing that is to pass over 
the bridge he has assisted the architect to build, the latter antici- 
pates the devil's disappointment when compelled to accept the 
dog, by which the literal wording of the contract is to be satis- 
fied. " The idea of the devil," observes Jacob Grimm, " is foreign 
to all primitive religions, and for this reason, that in these the 
idea of God is the idea of a devil. In his lowest form man has 
no other conception of God than one of power, and that power 
exercised for his bane. Everything that is agreeable or useful 
he accepted as a matter of course, but that which injured him 
riveted his attention, as his life was a prolonged contest with 
their power ; thus the first stage in the conception of a devil is 
the attribution of evil to God. Even in the present day inquire 
-of any peasant why he believes in an omnipotent Creator of the 
world, and he will not expatiate on the beauty and harmony of 
all creation ; to this he is accustomed and beholds it with un- 
concern. He will, on the contrary, recount to you as evidence of 
the existence of a God, the sudden and violent death of his friend 
or of his neighbour, some fearful accident or misfortune to 
another, or the inclemency of the season and the subsequent 


failure of the crops. In fine, such events as, with good reasoners, 
are the chief difficulties in admitting a supreme intelligence, are 
with him the sole arguments for it." 

The gods, goddesses, and banshees or ghosts were really feared 
by the Irish, for, as a sublime thinker says : — " Wo keine 
Gotter sind walten Gespenster." But, for so-called Christian 
teachers, the Christianized Evil Spirit never was nor ever would 
be dreaded. Impressions stamped on the early infantile mind, 
whether of the nation or of the individual, are not easily effaced ; 
even those engrained in early manhood are indelible. It is re- 
counted of a well-known character, the early part of whose life 
was passed in great pecuniary straits, that even when fortune 
turned and smiled upon him, nothing could eradicate from his 
mind the fear of sheriffs' bailiffs, at sight of whom he inconti- 
nently fled. There is also the story of a proselyte converted by 
missionary zeal from devil worship to a supposed intelligent 
belief in Christianity, bat who, nevertheless, in his last moments, 
grievously disappointed his spiritual father, for the good mission- 
ary, seeing the dying man troubled by considerations of futurity, 
and imagining he was racked by recollections of his former 
monstrous creed, and by a wholesome dread of condign punish- 
ment, said : — " You fear, is it not, to meet your God ? " and was 
met by the totally unexpected and startling answer: — "Not in 
the least ; with him, I shall be all right ; it is of the other I am 


The Food op Prehistoric Man. 

[Note to p. 29, line 26, after the word " Continent."] 

" Attention has recently been called to some curious experiments con- 
ducted some time ago by Mr. Charters White, m.r.c.s., lately the president 
of the Eoyal Odontological Society of Great Britain. Upon examining 
some skulls dating back from the Stone Age, he noted that several of the 
teeth, although quite free from caries, were thickly coated with tartar. 
It occurred to him that it would be possible by a rough analysis to identify 
any particles of food that might be embedded in this natural concrete, 
and so reveal the character of the ailment partaken of by prehistoric 
man. Dissolving the tartar in weak acid, a residue was left which, under 
the microscope, was found to consist of corn-husk particles, hairs from 
the outside of the husks, spiral vessels from vegetables, particles of starch, 
the point of a fish-tooth, a conglomeration of oval cells probably of fruit, 
the barblets of down, and portions of wool. In addition to t